Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has set up a potentially “nuclear” showdown with Republicans over President Obama’s executive nominees for next week .
Reid filed cloture Thursday on seven executive nominees, including Richard Cordray as the director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor, and Regina McCarthy as the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, setting up votes on the nominees for Tuesday.
In a news conference after a Democratic caucus meeting Thursday, Reid said he is prepared to use the “nuclear option” should Republicans not agree to approve the seven nominees. Current rules require 67 votes to change Senate rules, but the Nevada senator’s move would allow for the change in Senate filibuster procedure with a simple majority of 51 votes.
“I’m going to go to the floor on Tuesday and do what I need to do so this doesn’t happen anymore,” Reid said about the potential blocking of nominees.
But before they consider the nominees, all 100 senators will meet in the Old Senate Chamber for a rare special closed door caucus meeting to discuss the filibuster rules on Monday evening.
The potential move would infuriate Republicans, who have labeled it as a “power grab.”
“[W]hat he’s really saying here is, he doesn’t want any debate at all in connection with presidential appointments. Just sit down, shut up, and rubber stamp everything, everyone the president sends up here,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
In January, the two leaders reached an agreement over filibuster reform and took the “nuclear option” off the table at the time, but both accused each other Thursday of violating the compromise over the past six months.
“An agreement is a two-way street,” Reid said. “If anyone thinks since the first of this year that the norms and traditions of the Senate have been followed by the Republican leader, they’re living in gaga land.”
“This is about trying to come up with excuses to break our commitments. What this is about is manufacturing a pretext for a power grab,” McConnell said.
McConnell warned that invoking the “nuclear option” over the filibuster would tarnish Reid’s legacy as Senate majority leader.
“If we don’t pull back from the brink here, my friend, the majority leader, is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever,” McConnell said.
McConnell’s campaign team even tweeted an illustration of a tombstone bearing Harry Reid’s name and the words “Killed the Senate.”