Dems threaten to bring Senate to a crawl over FBI firing

Dems threaten to bring Senate to a crawl over FBI firing
© Greg Nash
Democrats are threatening to slow the Senate to a crawl in response to President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
 
"We clearly have the option of slowing down the proceedings of the Senate if there's not proper response from Republicans," Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate panel demands Trump's legal rationale for shooting Syrian jet Dems limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote MORE (D-Conn.) said after a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting focused on Comey's firing.
 
Democrats fired a warning shot Wednesday.
 
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDem senator: GOP's healthcare approach will 'devastate Medicaid' Sunday shows preview: Senate healthcare debate heats up Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, objected to the Senate GOP's routine request to allow 13 committee hearings to take place.
 
"Because of the decision last night by the president of the United States to terminate the director of the FBI and the questions that its raised we gathered together, the Democratic senators on the floor, and listened as our leader at least suggested a path for us to follow as an institution facing this constitutional question," Durbin said from the Senate floor.
 
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellCornyn: Passing Senate healthcare bill by July 4 ‘optimistic’ Sasse has 'nothing to announce' on GOP ObamaCare repeal Price: 'No guarantees' people won't fall through cracks of healthcare bill MORE (R-Ky.), in an unusual move, stressed during his request that committees are "doing important work" including a hearing on North Korea. 
 
The Democrats' move also abruptly ended a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that had already started. 
 
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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSchumer jams to Diana Ross at New York party Warren cautions Dems against infighting FCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases MORE (D-N.Y.) requested that McConnell ask Attorney General Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsRussia is recalling ambassador at center of Trump campaign controversy: report Justice Department developing strategies to shut down ‘sanctuary cities’: report Sally Yates slams Sessions on criminal justice reform MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to meet in a separate closed-door briefings with senators.
 
Schumer also demanded that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein not be the one to appoint a special prosecutor for an investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, should one be named, and that Comey needs to meet with the Senate.
 
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that Comey had been invited to testify in a closed session on Tuesday, meaning it is not public.
 
 
Spokesmen for Durbin and Schumer did not respond to requests for comment on whether Democrats would try similar tactics this week to slow Senate proceedings. Murphy said there wasn't "consensus" yet on playing procedural hardball.
 
"I think this is 12 hours old, and I think we have to give a little bit of time for Republicans to have their own conversations and perhaps rise to the occasion," he said.
 
Wednesday isn't the first time Democrats have tried to leverage the Senate schedule.
 
Former Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWarren cautions Dems against infighting Dems see surge of new candidates Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight MORE (D-Nev.) warned last year that he would block committee meetings as part of a protest after Republicans refused to hold hearings or votes on Merrick Garland, former President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaCotton: US policy should be regime change in Iran Chelsea Manning takes part in first Pride March Trump: Obama not leading the resistance MORE's Supreme Court nominee. Democrats quickly backed down from that threat. 
 
Republicans used the procedural tactic when they were in the minority to try stall Obama's nominees. 
 
Senate committees can still meet, but under the Senate's "two-hour rule,” they are limited to meeting during the first two hours after the Senate convenes.
 
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing ended abruptly Wednesday after word spread that Senate Democrats were planning a slowdown of committee business.
 
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleySenate panel questions Lynch on alleged FBI interference The Hill's 12:30 Report GOP senator surprises top Dem with birthday cake MORE (R-Iowa) suddenly adjourned the hearing before Democrats could carry out the plan.
 
 
"At a minimum, the decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could — I won’t say would, but could — implicate the administration. To have this happen, and happen now, is beyond surprising," she said during the hearing. 
 
A visibly annoyed Sen. Susan CollinsSusan CollinsSenate Republicans reluctant to rush vote on healthcare bill GOP senator defends funding Planned Parenthood GOP sen: 'We should not be voting' on healthcare this week MORE (R-Maine) said she didn’t understand the point of the Democratic tactics, which postponed her hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
 
"Prohibiting me from chairing a hearing of the Aging Committee in which we have witnesses who have flown here from four different states, how does that contribute to solving anything that has to do with Jim Comey's firing?" she told reporters.
 
 
"We ought to want the United States Senate to function," he said from the Senate floor. "Everything does not have to be partisan. Everything does not have to be political."

Nathaniel Weixel contributed.

Updated at 4:29 p.m.