GOP senator warns Republicans could go 'nuclear' to clear Trump's nominees
© Camille Fine

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP seeks separation from Trump on Russia Hillicon Valley: EU hits Google with record B fine | Trump tries to clarify Russia remarks | Sinclair changing deal to win over FCC | Election security bill gets traction | Robocall firm exposed voter data Election security bill picks up new support in Senate MORE (Okla.) warned on Thursday that Republicans could go "nuclear" to speed up consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpNFL freezes policy barring players from protesting during anthem McConnell spokesman on Putin visit: 'There is no invitation from Congress' Petition urges University of Virginia not to hire Marc Short MORE's nominations.

"My hope is that we can get this done in the next month [with Democratic support]. If we can't, we're in a logjam that we're going to have to resolve through a nuclear option," Lankford told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Pressed if he expects Republicans would go "nuclear" to change the rules on most nominations to require only a simple majority to approve them, Lankford added: "I do, actually. I think that's what happened in 2013 when Democrats got frustrated with it, I think they did set the precedent."


Republicans have been privately mulling limiting the amount of debate time needed before they can take a final vote on hundreds of the president’s picks.

They argue Democrats are using the Senate’s rulebook to stonewall and slow-walk nominees, hindering GOP leadership's ability to schedule votes on legislation.

The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last month on Lankford's proposal to limit the amount of debate time on nominations after they’ve already cleared a procedural hurdle and shown they have enough support to pass.

Under Lankford’s resolution, post-cloture debate for non-Cabinet executive nominees would shrink from 30 hours down to eight hours. For district court nominees, debate would be limited to two hours. 

The Senate passed a similar resolution in 2013 to limit debate for most nominations in a 78-16 vote. Democrats controlled the chamber at the time.

But nomination fights have grown increasingly political since then. Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSenate GOP breaks record on confirming Trump picks for key court Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE (Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower-court and executive nominations.

Republicans, in turn, got rid of the same hurdle for Supreme Court nominees last year. Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits Controversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s walk-back fails to stem outrage on Putin meeting MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also indicated that he will nix the “blue slip” for circuit court nominees if he thinks Democrats are abusing the protection.

It's unclear if Republicans would have the votes to change the rules on their own.

With Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) sworn in on Wednesday, GOP leadership has a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainControversial Trump judicial nominee withdraws Trump vows to hold second meeting with Putin Ex-Montenegro leader fires back at Trump: ‘Strangest president' in history MORE (Ariz.) said last year that they did not support further changes to the rules, but haven't weighed in on the looming fight more recently.