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

GOP Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordCollusion judgment looms for key Senate panel GOP loads up lame-duck agenda as House control teeters The Hill's Morning Report — Kavanaugh, Ford saga approaches bitter end MORE (Okla.) warned on Thursday that Republicans could go "nuclear" to speed up consideration of President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Guardian slams Trump over comments about assault on reporter Five takeaways from the first North Dakota Senate debate Watchdog org: Tillerson used million in taxpayer funds to fly throughout US 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 ReidMajor overhauls needed to ensure a violent revolution remains fictional Senate heads home to campaign after deal on Trump nominees GOP has always been aggressive in trying to weaponize the system of judicial nominations 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 GrassleyTrump officials ratchet up drug pricing fight Dems angered by GOP plan to hold judicial hearings in October American Bar Association dropping Kavanaugh review 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 CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns Susan Collins and the mob mentality Graham: I hope Dems 'get their ass kicked' for conduct around Kavanaugh MORE (Maine) and John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMcConnell: GOP could try to repeal ObamaCare again after midterms Comey donates maximum amount to Democratic challenger in Virginia House race Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate 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.