Reid confident he has the votes to trigger nuclear option in Senate

After days of intense lobbying, Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) is confident he has enough votes to trigger the nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules.

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Reid needs 50 votes for the controversial tactic, which Republicans say would forever “change the character of the Senate” but Democrats argue is necessary to fix a broken institution.

Reid expects to have at least 51 Democratic votes to prohibit Republicans from filibustering President Obama’s executive-branch nominees. Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Biden: 'The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world' DNC chair defends debate schedule after Biden says election process starts 'too early' MORE could provide insurance by presiding over the chamber to break a tie vote.

The standing rules of the Senate require a 67-vote majority to change the rules, but Reid would circumvent that by making a point of order that senators should be prohibited from filibustering executive-branch nominees.

This would clear the way for the Senate to confirm Obama’s most controversial nominees with simple majority votes, including Richard Cordray, the nominee to serve as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and three picks for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

It’s called the nuclear option because it would cause a meltdown in bipartisan relations. Senate Republicans on Thursday threatened to shut the upper chamber down until next year’s election.

Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season Trump: McConnell should keep Senate in session until nominees are approved MORE (Ky.) warned Reid would be remembered as the “worst leader of the Senate ever” if he moves forward.

Sen. Carl LevinCarl Milton LevinListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home House Democrats poised to set a dangerous precedent with president’s tax returns The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — White House to 'temporarily reinstate' Acosta's press pass after judge issues order | Graham to take over Judiciary panel | Hand recount for Florida Senate race MORE (D-Mich.) will vote against any point of order Reid raises to change the rules. Sens. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.), who is facing a tough election next year, and Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Judge boots Green Party from Montana ballot in boost to Tester MORE (D-Mont.) are “leaning no”, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPapering over climate change impacts is indefensible Why Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy GOP chairman: US military may have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia does MORE (D-R.I.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants EPA to announce PFAS chemical regulation plans by end of year Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House MORE (D-Del.) are two other swing votes, but Democratic leaders expect them to ultimately support Reid.

Reed has wavered back and forth in recent meetings with advocates pushing for Senate rules reform.

“He was agonizing over it,” said a member of the pro-reform coalition who lobbied him. “I think Jack Reed is now in the right place. Pryor and Baucus are still up in the air.”

Cathy Duvall, the national political director at the Sierra Club, which is a member of the Fix the Senate Now coalition, said some Democratic senators are concerned about possible GOP retribution.

“It’s my understanding there are a number of senators who still have some questions about the process and what the retribution might be,” she said.

She said whether Reid triggers the nuclear option will depend on whether Republicans allow the nominees to reach final votes.

“What happens on Tuesday depends on what Republicans do,” she said. “Will they continue to create unprecedented gridlock on nominations or will they join with Reid to get the Senate to work?”

McConnell has signaled he will allow final votes on two of Obama’s high-profile nominees, Tom Perez, the pick to serve as Labor secretary, and Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight 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 Judges skeptical of case against Obama smog rule MORE, the nominee for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Republicans have proposed a deal on the National Labor Relations Board that would have Obama submit new names for those positions, according to an aide familiar with the offer. Republicans argue two of the nominees — Richard Griffin and Sharon Block — are tainted because Obama recess-appointed them in January of 2012. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals later invalidated the appointment.

“It seems to me you don’t put people who have gone around the rules into power positions because they’re people who really will not abide by the rules,” said Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchOrrin Hatch Foundation seeking million in taxpayer money to fund new center in his honor Mitch McConnell has shown the nation his version of power grab Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Utah Senate votes to scale back Medicaid expansion | Virginia abortion bill reignites debate | Grassley invites drug execs to testify | Conservative groups push back on e-cig crackdown MORE (R-Utah). “If they want to pick two others and maybe of the same philosophy, they’d probably get through.”

Reid, however, will not agree to any deal on nominees that leaves out Cordray, who is seen as essential to the functioning of the financial protection bureau, one of the chief reforms of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act.

“Cordray is not coming off the table. Period,” said a senior Democratic aide. “Republicans are trying to appeal to us for a deal on the NLRB guys. I don’t think that they’ve gotten a very receptive reaction.”

Barring filibusters on executive-branch nominees would give Obama greater leeway in appointing Janet Napolitano’s successor as secretary of Homeland Security.

“If Democrats actually do the nuclear option, it would reduce the confirmation process to one party rule,” said John Ashbrook, a spokesman for McConnell, in an e-mail. “President Obama could install controversial nominees with a complicit Democrat majority and no real input from the opposition. The selection of her replacement could be the first test of a scaled back check on the President’s power.”

Republicans warn this could undermine confidence in the implementation of pending immigration reform proposals.

Reid has scheduled a rare joint Democratic-Republican caucus meeting on Monday evening in an eleventh-hour effort to quell the mounting partisan tensions, but Democrats doubt it will yield a result. Republicans requested the bipartisan session.

The Senate will start voting on Tuesday to end debate on seven of Obama’s nominees, beginning with Cordray and then moving to the three nominees to the labor relations board. A senior Democratic aide said seven votes are likely to occur, but some could be delayed until later in the week.

If Republicans block a final vote on Cordray or the labor-board picks, Reid could make a motion to reconsider the vote to end debate on their nominations later in the week. That would give him an opportunity to trigger the nuclear option on Thursday, after procedural time to consider the other nominees has elapsed.

Reid has several procedural options for invoking the nuclear option. As of Friday, he had not decided which one to use, according to an aide.

--This report was updated at 1:47 p.m.