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 ReidAfter healthcare fail, 4 ways to revise conservative playbook Dem senator 'not inclined to filibuster' Gorsuch This obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all 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.
“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 CollinsThis week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark KirkObamaCare repeal bill would defund Planned Parenthood Leaked ObamaCare bill would defund Planned Parenthood GOP senator won't vote to defund Planned Parenthood 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 McConnellMitch McConnellPath to 60 narrows for Trump pick Dems delay Senate panel vote on Supreme Court nominee This week: GOP picks up the pieces after healthcare defeat 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 MurkowskiElle honors 10 at annual 'Women in Washington' event Five takeaways from Labor pick’s confirmation hearing ObamaCare repeal faces last obstacle before House vote MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranJerry MoranGOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls Yahoo reveals new details about security A guide to the committees: Senate 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 AyotteFEC commissioner to Trump: Prove voter fraud Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing Lewandowski saw no evidence of voter fraud in New Hampshire MORE (N.H.), John BoozmanJohn BoozmanSenate Republicans eyeing alternative tax reform plan Lawmakers fundraise amid rising town hall pressure A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeOvernight Tech: High court hears case on where patent suits are filed | House to vote on blocking internet privacy rules | Facebook's new tools for voters House to vote Tuesday on blocking Obama internet privacy rules Week ahead in tech: FCC privacy rules on the ropes MORE (Ariz.), Grassley, Orrin HatchOrrin HatchOvernight Finance: US preps cases linking North Korea to Fed heist | GOP chair says Dodd-Frank a 2017 priority | Chamber pushes lawmakers on Trump's trade pick | Labor nominee faces Senate US Chamber urges quick vote on USTR nominee Lighthizer Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames InhofeRepeal of Obama drilling rule stalls in the Senate GOP senator: EPA 'brainwashing our kids' A guide to the committees: Senate MORE (Okla.), Ron JohnsonRon JohnsonLawmakers share photos of their dogs in honor of National Puppy Day GOP targets Baldwin over Wisconsin VA scandal The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Moran, Murkowski, Rob PortmanRob PortmanOvernight Finance: Senators spar over Wall Street at SEC pick's hearing | New CBO score for ObamaCare bill | Agency signs off on Trump DC hotel lease GOP senators offer bill to require spending cuts with debt-limit hikes Vulnerable Senate Dem: Border tax concerning for agriculture MORE (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco RubioRepublicans giving Univision the cold shoulder: report Week ahead: Senate panel to vote on Trump's Labor pick Senators introduce new Iran sanctions 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.