In a big unexpected twist in the new Congress, Senate Republicans are reportedly crafting a plan to do away with the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court justice nominees.
Politico reported Friday evening that the plan, though in its early stages, was being led by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Roy Blunt (R-MO).
“What we would like to do is adopt by rule the way the Senate has always operated,” Alexander told Politico. “The history of the Senate has been up-or-down votes, as I call them, at 51.”
The proposal, which might require a two-thirds vote to take effect, has not yet been circulated widely among the GOP caucus.
But that it is even being considered is surprising after Senate Republicans decried last year, while they were still in the minority, the decision by Senate Democrats to do away with the 60-vote filibuster for administrative and judicial nominees — with the important exception of Supreme Court candidates.
“I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle: you’ll regret this,” current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said at the time. “And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), now chair of the Judiciary Committee, actually warned that day in November 2013 that Republicans would actually expand on the move by Democrats and do away with the filibuster for the Supreme Court, too, once they took back the majority.
As Politico observed, the move would be a big boon to whichever party controls the Senate and White House after the 2016 elections. But it could also have more immediate implications, depending on how quickly the GOP Senate acts.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are all 78 or older, and some Democrats have urged the liberal Ginsburg to retire so that President Barack Obama would have the opportunity to appoint another justice before he leaves office.
Ginsburg has thus far said that she won’t bow to that pressure.