Harry Reid Looks to Change Senate Rules to Ram Through Obama Nominees

Harry Reid Looks to Change Senate Rules to Ram Through Obama Nominees

A consortium of liberal groups and labor unions are pressuring Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to change Senate rules on filibustering beyond the nuclear option. They argue the additional changes will speed up the confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees.

The alliance known as Fix the Senate Now includes the prominent liberal advocacy groups Communications Workers of America, Common Cause, Sierra Club, and the Alliance for Justice. The coalition put forth a statement saying, “We strongly urge Majority Leader Reid and Chairman [Patrick] Leahy [D-Vt.] to consider reforms to floor and committee rules that will hasten the confirmation of President Obama’s talented and qualified set of nominees.”

Despite his frustration with Republican hold ups, Reid is hesitant about initiating another set of rules changes after the uproar last year when he broke with four decades of senate tradition and set into motion the nuclear option, which eliminated filibustering for most presidential nominees. Nevertheless, the Senate Majority Leader knows that he will need the help of these outside groups in November’s midterm elections. Already, Reid is feeling the heat from labor unions about his recent failure to advance a three-month extension of unemployment benefits.

Moreover, the unions and progressive organizations know that they have to strike while the iron is hot. If Reid and the Democrats fail to retain their control of the Senate in November, Obama will get very few of his judicial nominees confirmed next year.

One of the proposals Reid may implement is known as the “talking filibuster,” which requires members of the minority party to actively hold the floor in order to block legislation. As a result, Republicans would be less likely to filibuster because they would have to organize into teams and talk on the Senate floor for extremely long periods of time.

Also, Reid is considering eliminating the practice of giving home-state senators sign-off authority on judicial nominees, also known as “blue slip” authority. Rep. Martha Fudge (D-OH), the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, accused Senate Republicans Marco Rubio (FL) and Richard Burr (NC) of blocking African-American judicial nominees such as William Thomas, a nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, and Jennifer May-Parker, a nominee to district court for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

The rule changes aim to cut the Republicans out of the deliberative process and may undermine the checks and balances that is the foundation of American governance. 

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