GOP senator warns Republicans could go 'nuclear' to clear Trump's nominees
© Camille Fine

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordHow Republicans are battling judicial obstructionism today GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump GOP to go 'nuclear' with rules change for Trump nominations MORE (Okla.) warned on Thursday that Republicans could go "nuclear" to speed up consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Dems demand Barr cancel 'inappropriate' press conference on Mueller report DOJ plans to release 'lightly redacted' version of Mueller report Thursday: WaPo Nadler accuses Barr of 'unprecedented steps' to 'spin' Mueller report MORE's nominations.

"My hope is that we can get this done in the next month [with Democratic support]. If we can't, we're in a logjam that we're going to have to resolve through a nuclear option," Lankford told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

Pressed if he expects Republicans would go "nuclear" to change the rules on most nominations to require only a simple majority to approve them, Lankford added: "I do, actually. I think that's what happened in 2013 when Democrats got frustrated with it, I think they did set the precedent."


Republicans have been privately mulling limiting the amount of debate time needed before they can take a final vote on hundreds of the president’s picks.

They argue Democrats are using the Senate’s rulebook to stonewall and slow-walk nominees, hindering GOP leadership's ability to schedule votes on legislation.

The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last month on Lankford's proposal to limit the amount of debate time on nominations after they’ve already cleared a procedural hurdle and shown they have enough support to pass.

Under Lankford’s resolution, post-cloture debate for non-Cabinet executive nominees would shrink from 30 hours down to eight hours. For district court nominees, debate would be limited to two hours. 

The Senate passed a similar resolution in 2013 to limit debate for most nominations in a 78-16 vote. Democrats controlled the chamber at the time.

But nomination fights have grown increasingly political since then. Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSanders courts GOP voters with 'Medicare for All' plan Glamorization of the filibuster must end Schumer won't rule out killing filibuster MORE (Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower-court and executive nominations.

Republicans, in turn, got rid of the same hurdle for Supreme Court nominees last year. Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyTen post-Mueller questions that could turn the tables on Russia collusion investigators On The Money: Conservatives rally behind Moore for Fed | White House interviewing other candidates | Trump, Dems spar on Tax Day | Budget watchdogs bemoan 'debt denialism' GOP senators double down on demand for Clinton email probe documents MORE (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has also indicated that he will nix the “blue slip” for circuit court nominees if he thinks Democrats are abusing the protection.

It's unclear if Republicans would have the votes to change the rules on their own.

With Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) sworn in on Wednesday, GOP leadership has a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate.

GOP Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Energy: Collins receives more donations from Texas oil, gas industry than from Maine residents | Interior chief left meetings off schedule | Omar controversy jeopardizes Ocasio-Cortez trip to coal mine Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Collins receives more donations from Texas fossil fuel industry than from Maine residents MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE (Ariz.) said last year that they did not support further changes to the rules, but haven't weighed in on the looming fight more recently.