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

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordPelosi: Congress will receive election security briefing in July Senate GOP blocks election security bill GOP senators divided over approach to election security MORE (Okla.) warned on Thursday that Republicans could go "nuclear" to speed up consideration of President TrumpDonald John Trump2020 Democrats spar over socialism ahead of first debate Senate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House 'Teflon Don' avoids the scorn of the 'family values' GOP — again 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 ReidSenators briefed on US Navy's encounters with UFOs: report Key endorsements: A who's who in early states Trump weighs in on UFOs in Stephanopoulos interview 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 GrassleyThe Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Senate Finance leaders in talks on deal to limit drug price increases Million-dollar drugs pose new challenge for Congress 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 CollinsTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' Susan Collins: Trump's 'she's not my type' defense is 'extremely bizarre' The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump says he's 'very happy' some GOP senators have 'gone on to greener pastures' The Hill's Morning Report - Democratic debates: Miami nice or spice? Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry 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.