Senate Dems renew call for filibuster reform

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Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) renewed their call for filibuster rule reforms Wednesday.

“This situation in which the Senate Minority undermines executive judicial branches is unacceptable,” Merkley said on the Senate floor. “The Senate must act to restore its traditional role. … We have to do by rule what has not been done by simple cooperation.”

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Merkley and Udall have urged Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to use the “nuclear option” — a rare move to change the Senate rules through a simple-majority vote.

On Monday, Republicans filibustered President Obama’s third judicial nominees to the D.C. District Court.

Republicans have blocked up-or-down votes on Robert Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett. And Caitlin Halligan withdrew her nomination because of GOP threats to block her confirmation. GOP senators said it wasn’t because the judicial nominees weren’t qualified but because the D.C. Circuit Court has a low caseload and doesn’t need additional judges despite the fact that there are three vacancies on the court.

Earlier this year, lawmakers avoided the “nuclear” face off when Republicans vowed to only block nominees in “extraordinary circumstances.” But Democrats say the GOP has reneged on that agreement. 

“The only extraordinary circumstance has been continual obstruction,” Udall said. “A minority in the Senate should not be allowed to block nominees.”

Republicans have warned Democrats not to change the filibuster rules because it would set a precedent that would allow the GOP to do the same thing if it becomes the majority party in the Senate.