Democratic leaders: Pact that prevented use of the ‘nuclear option’ is dead

Democratic leaders say the Gang of 14 agreement on judicial nominees that, for years, kept the "nuclear option" from being used to change Senate rules is dead.

Senate Democrats are still angry over the Republican blockade of Caitlin Halligan, whom President Obama nominated in September of 2010 to serve on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She withdrew her nomination in March.

“The filibuster of Caitlin Halligan was a travesty. It represented the demise of the Gang of 14 agreement that this Senate has operated under the last few years,” said Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis Schumer4 in 5 Americans say they support net neutrality: poll GOP senator: Trump's criticism of McCain 'deplorable' Schumer to introduce bill naming Senate office building after McCain amid Trump uproar MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking member of the Senate Democratic leadership. “The blocking of the Halligan nomination proves that Republicans now treat judicial filibuster as the rule, not the exception.”

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Although the Gang of 14 deal was originally forged to address filibusters of judicial nominees, its standard had become applicable to executive branch nominees.

Seven Democrats and seven Republicans agreed in 2005 that filibusters of nominees were appropriate only in instances of “extraordinary circumstances.” It averted then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) threat to use the nuclear option to advance President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid slams Comey for Russia election meddling Suicide is not just a veteran problem — it is an American problem The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game MORE (D-Nev.) on Thursday stopped short of threatening a unilateral rules change to advance Obama’s blocked nominees, but Republicans fear he is poised to pull the trigger.

Changing the Senate’s procedures with a simple majority vote — as opposed to the 60-vote majority called for in the Senate’s standing rules — is known as the nuclear option because it could cause a meltdown in bipartisan relations.

Reid expressed hope that Republicans would begin to cooperate on nominees.

“You can’t expect us to do anything. I’m hopeful and confident this will work out,” he said.
 
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Dems eye next stage in Mueller fight House Oversight Dem wants Trump to release taxes and 'get it over with' Senate rejection of Green New Deal won't slow Americans' desire for climate action MORE (Ky.) accused Democrats of intimidation.

“This is the culture of intimidation that we’ve seen at the IRS, that we’ve seen at HHS [Health and Human Services], at the FEC [Federal Election Commission], at the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] and now here,” he said in reference to various federal agencies.

“Do what I say when I say it. Sit down, shut up or we’ll change the rules,” he added, characterizing the perceived Democratic threat.

Reid said the bipartisan agreement struck earlier this year to modify Senate rules has done “virtually nothing to alleviate the obstruction we’ve seen for five months now from the Republicans.”
 
Reid cited a Republican filibuster of Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Democrats offer legislation to counter White House climate science council Dozens of ex-officials warn Trump against White House panel on climate change MORE’s nomination to serve as secretary of Defense; 1,100 questions submitted by Republicans to Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight Energy: Senate Dems introduce Green New Deal alternative | Six Republicans named to House climate panel | Wheeler confirmed to lead EPA Overnight Energy: Joshua Tree National Park lost M in fees due to shutdown | Dem senator, AGs back case against oil giants | Trump officials secretly shipped plutonium to Nevada Overnight Energy: Ethics panel clears Grijalva over settlement with staffer | DC aims to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2032 | Judges skeptical of challenge to Obama smog rule MORE, Obama’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency; and GOP threats to filibuster Richard Cordray’s nomination to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Republicans have agreed to an up-or-down vote Thursday afternoon on Sri Srinivasan, Obama’s latest pick to fill one of four vacancies on the D.C. Circuit Court. McConnell initially insisted that Srinivasan come up for a vote after the Memorial Day recess, but Democrats argued that his nomination has already languished for a year.

He is expected to easily win the 51 votes needed for confirmation.