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 TrumpTrump calls Sri Lankan prime minister following church bombings Ex-Trump lawyer: Mueller knew Trump had to call investigation a 'witch hunt' for 'political reasons' The biggest challenge from the Mueller Report depends on the vigilance of everyone 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 GrassleyOn The Money: Inside the Mueller report | Cain undeterred in push for Fed seat | Analysis finds modest boost to economy from new NAFTA | White House says deal will give auto sector B boost The 7 most interesting nuggets from the Mueller report Government report says new NAFTA would have minimal impact on economy 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 CollinsSenate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Collins: Mueller report includes 'an unflattering portrayal' of Trump GOP senator: 'No problem' with Mueller testifying MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCain10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing 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.