Schumer vows votes on background checks, voting rights after break
Reid: 'I have set the Senate' for nuclear option
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is predicting a Democratic-majority Senate next year could break out the "nuclear option" to change the rules on Supreme Court nominations.
The outgoing Democratic leader told Talking Points Memo that he's paved the way for what would be a historic change of the Senate's rules, allowing Supreme Court nominees to bypass a 60-vote procedural requirement and be approved by a simple majority.
"I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we're going to be able to get judges done with a majority," he said. "It's clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I've told 'em how and I've done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It'll have to be done again."
Reid's comments come as Senate Republicans have refused to give Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote for more than eight months. They argue that the vacancy from Justice Antonin Scalia's death should be filled by the president's successor.
Reid, who has previously floated changing the rules in 2017, added to TPM that if Republicans "mess with the Supreme Court, it'll be changed just like that in my opinion. So I've set that up. I feel very comfortable with that."
In 2013 Senate Democrats changed the filibuster rules on most of Obama's nominees, allowing them to get approved by a simple majority, but left the 60-vote hurdle intact for Supreme Court nominations.
However, the 2013 shift - the most significant change to Senate floor procedure in decades - has sparked years of backlash from Republicans, who warned that it undercuts a minority party's ability to block a president's nomination.
Democrats have repeatedly blasted GOP leadership for ignoring Garland's nomination but face an uphill battle to get his nomination through the Senate. Under current Senate rules they would need 60 votes - meaning Republican support - to get Garland approved this year.
With Reid retiring, any push to change the filibuster rules if Democrats win back the Senate would have to come from Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is expected to be the next Democratic leader.
The New Yorker's office declined to comment Monday on Reid's remarks.
Schumer also sidestepped a question about a potential rules change on Supreme Court nominations earlier this month, telling CNBC's John Harwood, "I hope we won't get to that. And I'll leave it at that."