Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would hold a vote on Richard Cordray's nomination to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before the Senate skipped town for Memorial Day.
Plans change. Cordray will now most likely get his chance after immigration reform legislation clears the Senate. And not because Reid is giving up on Cordray's nomination, but because he wants to turn Cordray and a handful of other nominees into a test of the GOP's vows to filibuster top Obama picks, including two designated cabinet secretaries.
The move serves two purposes: First, it removes one of the largest pretexts Republicans will have to walk away from immigration reform. Second, it puts Republicans on the spot in an exquisite -- and in Reid's mind necessary -- way, thus providing the nominees their best chance at confirmation, and leaving Democrats little choice, if the GOP blocks them, but to change the rules to immunize executive and judicial nominees from filibuster.
"The more likely scenario is that cloture is filed on some or all of them, because that is more substantive than a unanimous consent request," says a senior Democratic aide. "But that determination hasn't been made yet."
The idea is to set up back-to-back-to-back confirmation votes on Cordray, Labor Secretary nominee Tom Perez, and Gina McCarthy, whom Obama nominated to serve as EPA administrator -- and perhaps others.
Lumping Cordray in with the rest will result in a more dramatic demonstration, top Democrats believe, than trickling the nominees out slowly.
That effectively puts Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on a collision course. If McConnell caves or works out an agreement with Reid, then the nuclear option will become inoperative. But if he doesn't and these confirmation votes fail, then Reid will either have to admit defeat or do ... something. In that sense he's essentially building a "permission structure" for himself and his caucus to do something about the rules in the event that Republicans make good on their threats.