Senate Democrats set for decisive meeting on 'nuclear option'

Senate Democrats will huddle Thursday to determine whether to trigger the “nuclear option” to ram through nominees with a simple majority vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Tuesday that he planned to meet with his colleagues in two days, at which point a decision will be made on whether to change the upper chamber’s filibuster rules with the controversial tactic.

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“I’m going to caucus on this Thursday, and I think Thursday by the time the day is out, you’ll have a better idea of what we’re going to try and do on this,” he told reporters.

Reid is facing pressure to advance several stalled nominees by making a Senate rule change that would eliminate filibusters on nominees. Typically, a change to Senate rules requires 67 votes, but the parliamentary maneuvering of the nuclear option would require only a majority vote.

Thursday’s meeting will be Reid’s final chance to determine how badly his colleagues want to push several stalled presidential nominees, including Tom Perez, President Obama’s pick to head the Labor Department, and Richard Cordray, who was renominated to continue as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Several nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) also hang in the balance, after a court ruled that Obama’s recess appointments of three members were invalid. Cordray was recess-appointed to his position on the same day, but his appointment has yet to be ruled on by a court. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on the NLRB picks.

Reid is facing mounting pressure from organized labor to move the NLRB nominees before the board loses a quorum in August.
Consumer advocates and other liberals are also mounting a push to see Cordray confirmed to stay on at the CFPB beyond the end of the year, when his appointment would expire.

While there is a growing call to get the nominations confirmed by any means necessary, there is lingering concern about what the contentious move could mean for Senate relations in the future and whether it could stifle any further productive work in the chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has warned Reid for months about using the nuclear option, predicting it will cause a meltdown in relations in the consensus-driven Senate.

This story was originally published at 3:14 p.m. and updated at 7:00 p.m.