© Greg Nash
Democrats are threatening to slow the Senate to a crawl in response to President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.
"We clearly have the option of slowing down the proceedings of the Senate if there's not proper response from Republicans," Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyTell our troops: 'Your sacrifice wasn't in vain' Sunday shows preview: Bombing in Kabul delivers blow to evacuation effort; US orders strikes on ISIS-K White House seeks to regain control on Afghanistan MORE (D-Conn.) said after a closed-door Democratic caucus meeting focused on Comey's firing.
Democrats fired a warning shot Wednesday.
Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDemocrats hope Biden can flip Manchin and Sinema US gymnasts offer scathing assessment of FBI The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Simone Biles, gymnastics stars slam FBI during Nassar testimony MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, objected to the Senate GOP's routine request to allow 13 committee hearings to take place.
"Because of the decision last night by the president of the United States to terminate the director of the FBI and the questions that its raised we gathered together, the Democratic senators on the floor, and listened as our leader at least suggested a path for us to follow as an institution facing this constitutional question," Durbin said from the Senate floor.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' Capito grills EPA nominee on '#ResistCapitalism' tweet Hassan launches first ad of reelection bid focusing on veterans' issues MORE (R-Ky.), in an unusual move, stressed during his request that committees are "doing important work" including a hearing on North Korea.
The Democrats' move also abruptly ended a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that had already started.
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails MORE (D-N.Y.) requested that McConnell ask Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsOvernight Hillicon Valley — Apple issues security update against spyware vulnerability Stanford professors ask DOJ to stop looking for Chinese spies at universities in US Overnight Energy & Environment — Democrats detail clean electricity program MORE and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to meet in a separate closed-door briefings with senators.
Schumer also demanded that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein not be the one to appoint a special prosecutor for an investigation into Russia's meddling in the election, should one be named, and that Comey needs to meet with the Senate.
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced that Comey had been invited to testify in a closed session on Tuesday, meaning it is not public.
Spokesmen for Durbin and Schumer did not respond to requests for comment on whether Democrats would try similar tactics this week to slow Senate proceedings. Murphy said there wasn't "consensus" yet on playing procedural hardball.
"I think this is 12 hours old, and I think we have to give a little bit of time for Republicans to have their own conversations and perhaps rise to the occasion," he said.
Wednesday isn't the first time Democrats have tried to leverage the Senate schedule.
Former Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidDemocrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda Justice Breyer issues warning on remaking Supreme Court: 'What goes around comes around' MORE (D-Nev.) warned last year that he would block committee meetings as part of a protest after Republicans refused to hold hearings or votes on Merrick Garland, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFormer Sen. Heller to run for Nevada governor Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Senate Democrats ding Biden energy proposal Business coalition aims to provide jobs to Afghan refugees MORE's Supreme Court nominee. Democrats quickly backed down from that threat.
Republicans used the procedural tactic when they were in the minority to try stall Obama's nominees.
Senate committees can still meet, but under the Senate's "two-hour rule,” they are limited to meeting during the first two hours after the Senate convenes.
A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing ended abruptly Wednesday after word spread that Senate Democrats were planning a slowdown of committee business.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyWoman allegedly abused by Nassar after he was reported to FBI: 'I should not be here' Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh MORE (R-Iowa) suddenly adjourned the hearing before Democrats could carry out the plan.
Ranking member Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing Former California senator prods Feinstein to consider retirement MORE (D-Calif.) used that meeting to dig into her concerns over Comey's firing.
"At a minimum, the decision to fire Comey raises questions about the appropriateness and timing of firing the person in charge of an investigation that could — I won’t say would, but could — implicate the administration. To have this happen, and happen now, is beyond surprising," she said during the hearing.
A visibly annoyed Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWelcome to ground zero of climate chaos A tale of two chambers: Trump's power holds in House, wanes in Senate Bipartisan blip: Infrastructure deal is last of its kind without systemic change MORE (R-Maine) said she didn’t understand the point of the Democratic tactics, which postponed her hearing scheduled for Wednesday.
"Prohibiting me from chairing a hearing of the Aging Committee in which we have witnesses who have flown here from four different states, how does that contribute to solving anything that has to do with Jim Comey's firing?" she told reporters.
Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIt's time for Congress to act before slow mail turns into no mail Kaine says he has votes to pass Iraq War repeal in Senate Seven-figure ad campaign urges GOP to support infrastructure bill MORE (R-Kansas) called the Democratic tactics "another low" for the Senate.
"We ought to want the United States Senate to function," he said from the Senate floor. "Everything does not have to be partisan. Everything does not have to be political."
Nathaniel Weixel contributed.
Updated at 4:29 p.m.