Dems mull 'nuclear option' on filibuster to move EPA nominee McCarthy

Senate Democratic leaders should consider using the “nuclear option” to blow up GOP filibusters of EPA nominee Gina McCarthyRegina (Gina) McCarthyOvernight 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 California commits to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 MORE and several other administration hopefuls, several liberal senators told The Hill on Wednesday.

The lawmakers say they’re concerned the confirmation process for McCarthy and other nominees could drag on too long without rules changes.

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“One of the great problems we have here and one of the reasons for disfunctionality is the majority does not rule,” said Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersPoll shows 36 percent support Trump's reelection, 43 percent prefer generic Democrat Trump's approval rating holds steady at 45 percent amid government shutdown: poll Senate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private MORE (I-Vt.), who has been vocal in calling for Senate Democrats to force the GOP’s hand by changing Senate rules on the filibuster through a majority vote.

“I think that is clear on many major issues. I think it’s very, very clear in terms of presidential nominations,” added Sanders, who has expressed concerns that McCarthy will be unable to win 60 votes.

Twenty-five Democrats discussed the nuclear option — which would involve changing Senate rules through a majority vote to prevent the GOP from using the 60-vote filibuster — at a meeting with labor groups last week, and sources have told The Hill that Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHow the Clinton machine flooded the FBI with Trump-Russia dirt … until agents bit Senate Republicans eye rules change to speed Trump nominees Harry Reid knocks Ocasio-Cortez's tax proposal: Fast 'radical change' doesn't work MORE (D-Nev.) is mulling it despite the deal he reached with Republicans on the filibuster earlier this year.

A GOP boycott of a committee vote last week to advance McCarthy’s nomination — which left the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with too few members to proceed — factors into the option’s resurgence.

“I think that the recent behavior by the Republicans has reopened that question,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies Dem calls for Cohen to testify before Senate panel over explosive report MORE (D-R.I.) told The Hill.

Progress on McCarthy is still possible.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerOvernight Health Care: Dem chair plans hearing on Medicare for all | Senate GOP talks drug prices with Trump health chief | PhRMA CEO hopeful Trump reverses course on controversial pricing proposal Mobile providers at center of privacy storm The Memo: Trump moves to brink of emergency declaration MORE (R-Miss.) told reporters that Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerCalifornia AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list Climate debate comes full circle Fox's Ingraham transitioning longtime radio show to podcast MORE (D-Calif.) and ranking member Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterTop 5 races to watch in 2019 Louisiana congressman to challenge Dem Gov Kennedy says he won't run for Louisiana governor next year MORE (R-La.) are working on an agreement that could clear her confirmation ahead of the panel’s Thursday vote on McCarthy.

“It seems to me that issue is headed in the right direction,” said Wicker, who wouldn't comment on whether a deal would be ready by Thursday's vote.

Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private IRS shutdown plan fails to quell worries Dems blast EPA nominee at confirmation hearing MORE (D-Del.), who has been speaking with his Republican committee counterparts, said Tuesday that getting one or two GOP panel votes for McCarthy would make full Senate confirmation “a whole lot easier.”

Republicans have resisted McCarthy’s nomination because they say she hasn’t fully answered all their questions.

Chiefly, GOP lawmakers are concerned about transparency at the agency. They want the EPA to hand over data and information it uses to design air- and water-pollution regulations industry and conservatives oppose.

Democrats, however, contend McCarthy has answered more than 1,000 questions. They say Republicans are being “obstructionist.”

“We’ve got to look at all options right now. The filibuster was supposed to be an extraordinary tool used in extraordinary circumstances. … The standard for blocking a nominee ought to be whether or not the person is qualified, not whether or not you agree with the nominee on policy. Because that is settled during the presidential election,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told The Hill.

Those angling for a nuclear option also said they could envision tailoring it to presidential nominations, rather than legislative matters.

And Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Schumer wants answers from Trump on eminent domain at border Manafort developments trigger new ‘collusion’ debate MORE (D-N.M.), who supports a push led by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Senate Dem on call for Nielsen investigation: I am 'sick and tired of this administration lying' Dem senator requests FBI investigate Nielsen for potential perjury MORE (D-Ore.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallSenate Dems introduce bill to keep DACA info private Schumer wants answers from Trump on eminent domain at border Senate in last-minute talks to find deal to avert shutdown  MORE (D-N.M.) to overhaul Senate rules, said he could back a more specific tweak.

“I would suspect that there is probably a way to bifurcate policy bills from nominations, and I think that would be an appropriate approach as well,” Heinrich told The Hill.