Reid Edges Closer To Nuclear Option As Lengthy All-Senator Meeting Ends With No Deal

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A 3 1/2-hour long meeting of all senators ended Monday night without a resolution to the impasse over stalled presidential nominees, bringing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) one step closer to the nuclear option.

Reid said after the meeting in the Old Senate Chamber that there was no deal reached but that talks would continue. Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), said “discussions will continue” because “a clear bipartisan majority in the meeting believed the Leaders ought to find a solution.”

Seven nominees are scheduled to come up for Senate votes Tuesday morning at 10 a.m. ET: three members of the National Labor Relations Board and picks to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, Labor Department and Export-Import Bank. Reid has promised to change the rules by a simple majority vote if Republicans don’t let all of them through, and he’s confident he has the necessary 51 votes.The crux of the dispute is over two NLRB nominees who were recess-appointed by President Obama (Sharon Block and Richard Griffin), and Richard Cordray to lead the CFPB. In a new development, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said Cordray may have the votes to break a filibuster and be confirmed but that there was no agreement on the NLRB picks.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has led the push to strike an amicable resolution, told TPM that the meeting brought the effort “a little closer but not much.” His proposal involved replacing the two recess-appointed NLRB picks with different nominees.

Exiting the meeting, senators roundly said the discussion was constructive and positive but expressed a mix of cautious optimism, fatalistic pessimism, and exhaustion over the “repetitive” aspects of the lengthy meeting.

“There’s no deal, but there’s a much better understanding,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV).

“They’ve agreed to continue to try and work it out,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), a proponent of more far-reaching filibuster reform, said he believes Republicans offered no indication they’d let the disputed nominees through and that “at this point, we’re headed to votes.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said discussions would continue through the night.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) urged Reid to just let Republicans filibuster and pull the nuclear trigger.

“Get it over with. Put it behind us. Change the rules,” he said. “Say that from now on, executive branch nominees just need a majority vote.”

The move would be virtually unprecedented as the few successful efforts to weaken the filibuster in the Senate’s history have enjoyed the support of the two-thirds majority required under standing rules. And although Republicans argue that going nuclear — i.e., changing the rules by a simple majority vote — would set a terrible precedent and ultimately destroy the Senate, Reid insists he’s had enough of the obstruction and says the change would be minor. It would not apply to legislation or judicial nominees.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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