Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee

Reid plots strategy to force vote on Obama nominee
© Greg Nash

 

Senate Democrats say they may try to force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court with an unusual procedural tactic.

“There are many procedural things we can do,” Senate Democratic 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 (Nev.) said Tuesday when asked about the possibility of using a discharge resolution to bypass Republicans.

“That’s one thing we can do. Certainly we’ve got that in our arrow quiver, to do that and other things,” Reid said.

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP senators eager for Romney to join them Five hurdles to a big DACA and border deal Grand jury indicts Maryland executive in Uranium One deal: report MORE (R-Iowa) said last week that Republicans can’t stop Reid from at least attempting the maneuver. 

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Under the rules of the United States Senate, that resolution can be offered any time,” he said at a town hall meeting in Iowa.

Reid emphasized, however, that he’s in no rush to file such a motion.

He and his Democratic colleagues want to keep the pressure on Republicans to hold hearings on the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, believing they have the upper hand in the public relations battle.

“The obligation is for them to hold hearings and to have a vote. That’s in the Constitution,” Reid said. “Right now, we think we’re in a good place. The pressure’s on them, not on us.”

A senior Democratic aide described the discharge resolution as “a last resort.”  

But Republicans, by and large, have brushed off the pressure tactics. They argue that Reid took a different view in 2005, when Democrats were blocking then-President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

“The duties of the Senate are set forth in the Constitution of the United States. Nowhere in that document does it say the Senate has a duty to give presidential nominees a vote,” Reid said on the Senate floor nearly 11 years ago. “It says appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the Senate. That is very different than saying every nominee receives a vote.” 

The discharge resolution has not been tried in recent memory, so few Senate insiders know exactly how the process would work.

Essentially, Reid or another Democrat would offer a motion to proceed to a resolution to discharge Garland’s nomination from the Judiciary Committee.

That would first require Democrats to win a simple majority vote to move into executive session. If achieved, Democrats would have to overcome a 60-vote hurdle to consider the motion to discharge, according to a senior Democratic aide.

All in all, Democrats would need to keep their ranks unified and persuade 14 Republicans to vote with them to pull Garland out of committee, an unlikely scenario.

Republicans control 54 Senate seats, and Democrats have 46. 

Yet Grassley last week implied the vote would be difficult for Republicans given Garland’s credentials and the general view that he is more moderate than other potential Democratic nominees. 

“Whenever they take this vote — whether it would be based on confirming the nomination or whether it’s based on a discharge — it’s still going to be a tough vote,” Grassley said. 

Only two Republicans, Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark KirkHigh stakes as Trump heads to Hill Five things to watch for at Trump-Senate GOP meeting Giffords, Scalise highlight party differences on guns MORE (Ill.), support holding confirmation hearings for Garland, a well-regarded jurist with nearly two decades of service on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Collins praised the nominee after meeting him Tuesday and urged her colleagues to hold a public review instead of rejecting him out of hand.

“My views are not a secret to my colleagues. I would encourage all of my colleagues to sit down with Judge Garland,” she told reporters. “I believe that that’s how the process should work and works best when we have these one-on-one meetings followed by public hearings.”  

Kirk called Garland “one of the most eminent jurists in the country” after meeting with him last week.   

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Overnight Finance: Lawmakers see shutdown odds rising | Trump calls for looser rules for bank loans | Consumer bureau moves to revise payday lending rule | Trump warns China on trade deficit MORE’s (R-Ky.) conference has mostly held the line, arguing that the court vacancy should be left to the next president.

The number of Republican senators who supported hearings was initially four, but Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiSessions torched by lawmakers for marijuana move Calif. Republican attacks Sessions over marijuana policy Trump's executive order on minerals will boost national defense MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranDoug Jones to become only Dem senator with black chief of staff Congress should stand for rural America by enhancing broadband connectivity Immigrant entrepreneurs are vital to American prosperity MORE (Kan.) reversed themselves after getting strong pushback from GOP leaders and conservative activists.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who may be eyeing a primary challenge against Moran, criticized him for even opening the door to hearings. 

“I have consistently said, and continue to believe, that it is hopelessly and dangerously naive for Senator Moran to expect that President Obama would appoint a believer in the appropriate judicial role and basic interpretation of the U.S. Constitution,” Pompeo said Monday in a statement.

Reid insisted Tuesday that Democrats have momentum in the fight over Garland.

“We feel we’re making progress,” he said, noting that 20 editorials have been written in Iowa criticizing Grassley’s decision not to hold hearings. 

The Des Moines Register wrote Monday that Grassley “seems just fine with stalemate,” referring to the two 4-4 ties on the Supreme Court since conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in mid-February.

Reid added that Grassley now has a more competitive reelection race. Democrats have recruited former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge, the toughest opponent he has faced in years.

“No one thought he would have a race,” he added. “This is a real drag on the Republicans.”

Reid noted that more than a dozen Senate Republicans have agreed to meet with Garland, although most have made clear they will do so only as a courtesy.

In addition to Kirk and Collins, at least 15 other Republicans have voiced willingness to meet. They are Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteLessons from Alabama: GOP, throw out the old playbook The Hill's 12:30 Report Explaining Democratic victories: It’s gun violence, stupid MORE (N.H.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanThe Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill Lobbying World The Hill's Whip List: Republicans try again on ObamaCare repeal MORE (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcCain rips Trump for attacks on press Bipartisan group to introduce DACA bill in House Flake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense MORE (Ariz.), Grassley, 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 (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeEPA's Pruitt: Bring back 'true environmentalism' Tax cut complete, hawks push for military increase Trump meets with oil-state GOP senators on ethanol mandate MORE (Okla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators eager for Romney to join them The House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology Comey’s original Clinton memo released, cites possible violations MORE (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Moran, Murkowski, Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Overnight Tech: Regulators to look at trading in bitcoin futures | Computer chip flaws present new security problem | Zuckerberg vows to improve Facebook in 2018 MORE (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), 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 (Fla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.).

Ayotte, Portman, Murkowski and Flake are scheduled to meet with Garland next week.

Updated at 8:08 p.m.