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 ReidGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism 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 GrassleyGrassley renews complaints about History Channel Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos 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 CollinsTrump aide: Mueller probe 'has gone well beyond' initial scope Trump attorney Cohen overshadows Mueller probe Collins: Comey should have waited to release his memoir MORE (Maine) and Mark KirkMark Steven 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 McConnellGOP senator: Democratic opposition to Pompeo 'driven 100 percent by politics' Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees 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 MurkowskiSenators press administration on mental health parity Overnight Energy: Watchdogs unveil findings on EPA, Interior controversies | GAO says EPA violated law with soundproof booth | IG says Zinke could have avoided charter flight | GOP chair probes Pruitt's four email addresses GOP fractures over push to protect Russia probe MORE (Alaska) and Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranTrump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job Overnight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Senate repeals auto-loan guidance in precedent-shattering vote 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 AyotteAudit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars US sends A-10 squadron to Afghanistan for first time in three years No, the US did not spend million on a gas station in Afghanistan MORE (N.H.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSpending talks face new pressure Bill to bolster gun background checks gains enough support to break filibuster Senate Republicans call on Trump to preserve NAFTA MORE (Ark.), Bill Cassidy (La.), Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Arizona GOP tinkers with election rules with an eye on McCain's seat MORE (Ariz.), Grassley, Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump struggles to get new IRS team in place Romney forced into GOP primary for Utah Senate nomination Romney won't commit yet to supporting Trump in 2020 MORE (Utah), James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeDems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Overnight Energy: Former Pruitt aide alleges more wasteful spending, retaliation | Senate confirms EPA No. 2 | Zinke backs off big park fee increases Senate approves Trump’s pick for No. 2 at EPA MORE (Okla.), Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senator: Congress needs ‘to move on’ from Russia probe GOP senator: ‘Way too early’ to talk about supporting Trump in 2020 IG report faults fired FBI official McCabe for leak to media MORE (Wis.), James Lankford (Okla.), Moran, Murkowski, Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTax rules will be subject to more OMB review under new memo Ending sex trafficking tomorrow requires preventing child abuse today Doctors bristle at push for opioid prescription limits MORE (Ohio), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP Senate candidates trade barbs in brutal Indiana primary Students gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes 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.