In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Reid Mulls Nuclear-Style Filibuster Reform For Nominations

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AP Photo / Cliff Owen

The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, said Reid's patience with Republican obstruction "has basically worn out" -- but cautioned that "at the end of the day, the reality is we do need 51 votes." And it's not yet clear he has that. With a total of 55 Democrats, he has little cushion.

Reid, who has discussed the issue with President Obama, is eying such a push in July so it doesn't complicate immigration reform, the Washington Post reported. A few weeks ago, the majority leader met with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the leading supporter of filibuster reform, to discuss the issue going forward, a pro-reform Democratic aide confirmed.

"All within the sound of my voice -- including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with -- should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority," Reid told a Nevada radio station last month. "And I will do that if necessary."

Back in January, Reid weighed the nuclear option but settled on a package of modest reforms that preserved the filibuster but let Senate business move more quickly. The aide said he didn't have 51 votes to reform the filibuster then but he's closer to it now.

"There's been movement on that, but we haven't done a whip count on that so it's not clear where things stand," the aide said. "But there is a really strong desire to fix this process that is larger than any individual nominee and it's pretty deeply seated based on the last four years of unrelenting, blanket obstruction."

The battle could turn ugly as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been highly protective of the filibuster. Republicans will surely point out that they have let through a slew of Obama nominees to cabinet and judicial vacancies since his reelection.

But Democratic aides are coalescing around a message that the GOP filibusters of nominations at least, if not also legislation, must stop. There remains tension been leadership and pro-reform aides over the January effort. Some Democratic senators are said to be more worried privately about the nuclear option than they let on in public, although supporters of reform insist that Democrats can secure 51 votes if they push hard.