Senate Republicans feud over whether to keep nuke option

Senate Republicans feud over whether to keep nuke option
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans met behind closed doors Tuesday to debate whether they should reverse changes to the filibuster that made it easier for Senate Democrats to confirm President Obama’s nominees.

GOP lawmakers and senators-elect are at odds over whether their new majority should restore a threshold of 60 votes for breaking a filibuster of most presidential nominees. 

While many expressed anger over last years’ move by the Democrats and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDems search for winning playbook Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response The Memo: Immigration battle tests activists’ muscle MORE (D-Nev.) to unilaterally change the rules through a procedure known as the “nuclear option,” some say the new rules should be kept in case a Republican wins the White House in 2016.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWeek ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content Overnight Tech: GOP senator presses Apple over phone slowdowns | YouTube cancels projects with Logan Paul after suicide video | CEOs push for DACA fix | Bill would punish credit agencies for breaches GOP senator presses Apple on phone slowdowns MORE (R-S.D.) said Republicans will take their time reaching a decision.

“A lot of our guys still feel very strongly about just the wrongness of what [Reid] did and the position it’s put everybody here in the Senate in,” Thune said.

“Now we’re having to go through a fairly lengthy process to figure out, in the majority, how we want to proceed.”

Senators leaving the meeting were tight-lipped about their deliberations.

“Robust discussion, no decision,” Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchKoch groups: Don't renew expired tax breaks in government funding bill Hatch tweets link to 'invisible' glasses after getting spotted removing pair that wasn't there DHS giving ‘active defense’ cyber tools to private sector, secretary says MORE (R-Utah) said. 

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzWith religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again Interstate compacts aren't the right way to fix occupational licensing laws Texas Dem: ‘I don’t know what to believe’ about what Trump wants for wall MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that, while the nuclear option was a “mistake,” he believes the new GOP Senate should keep the rules.

“I don’t think there should be one rule for Democrats and one rule for Republicans,” he said. 

“I think the principle, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,’ should apply.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderWeek ahead: Lawmakers near deal on children's health funding Ryan suggests room for bipartisanship on ObamaCare Time to end fiscal year foolishness MORE (R-Tenn.) said the new 51-vote threshold for most nominations should stand but argued Republicans should codify it using the standing rules of the Senate, which requires 67 votes, instead of using the same procedural rule used by Democrats that only needed a majority.

Alexander said he might introduce legislation with Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle With religious liberty memo, Trump made America free to be faithful again This week: Time running out for Congress to avoid shutdown MORE (R-Utah) that would require only a majority vote for all nominations.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Overnight Defense: GOP chair blames Dems for defense budget holdup | FDA, Pentagon to speed approval of battlefield drugs | Mattis calls North Korea situation 'sobering' Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House MORE (R-S.C.) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Meghan McCain says her father regrets opposition to MLK Day MORE (R-Ariz.) both said keeping the new rules would be dangerous. 

Graham said that, while some Republicans are “salivating” over the possibility of being able to more easily confirm their picks under a Republican president, removing the filibuster destroys incentives “to go across the aisle and pick up a few votes.”

“I think that moderating exercise has served this country well. You take that out, you just watch in the next coming decades what kind of judges you’re going to get.”

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Cybersecurity: Bipartisan bill aims to deter election interference | Russian hackers target Senate | House Intel panel subpoenas Bannon | DHS giving 'active defense' cyber tools to private sector Senators unveil bipartisan push to deter future election interference Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE (R-Fla.), who is seen as a contender for the White House in 2016, said that, while he hasn’t made up his mind about the rule change, lawmakers should play the long game.

“We’re going to have Democrat presidents in the future at some point as well; we can’t make our decision based on that,” he said. 

“We have to do what’s right for the country, for the Senate as an institution, for the best public policy.”

Graham said both veterans and newcomers to the Senate are on both sides of the issue.

“It’s a hard thing to figure out, but it’s always been easy for me,” he said. “Before I got here, the place seemed to work OK. I don’t want to screw it up.”