WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) signaled Tuesday that his Democratic caucus members are becoming so frustrated with Republicans blocking President Barack Obama's nominees that they will again consider whether to invoke the so-called nuclear option to change Senate rules.
"I'm going to have a full meeting with my caucus on Thursday. We're going to talk about nominations," Reid said. He did not hint what he would do, but suggested his deliberations were far enough along that the sessions with his members would be decisive.
"I think Thursday, by the time the day's out, you'll have a better idea of what we're going to try to do on this," Reid told reporters on Capitol Hill.
Senate Democrats had threatened to change rules at the start of the session to make filibusters more difficult, but settled on only mild reforms. At the time, Reid promised not to change the rules for the rest of the Senate session as long as the GOP members conducted themselves in the a less obstructive manner more in keeping with Senate history.
But soon thereafter, Republicans attempted the first-ever filibuster of a defense secretary nominee. They have also slow-walked numerous nominees, subjecting them to hundreds of questions before granting a vote -- usually resulting in overwhelming confirmation.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Reid met with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), one of the most outspoken advocates of sweeping reform, Democratic aides told HuffPost. Merkley pushed Reid hard in December to make major changes to Senate rules, and was ultimately rebuffed, but his meeting with the leader Tuesday signals that Democrats are attempting to align behind a single strategy.
The nuclear option involves using arcane Senate parliamentary procedures to force a simple majority vote, which would than set precedent for similar future votes. Many Democrats feel like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has broken his side of the agreement, and they may be prepared to break theirs.
"There's only so many times you can play Lucy with the football," one aide said, referring to the cartoon character's penchant for snatching the ball away from Charlie Brown just before he can kick it.
Republicans have backed off recently, with conservatives such as Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) promising a vote on the president's EPA nominee. Two judges were confirmed just this week.
But many Democrats, key among them Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, wanted stronger reforms at the start of the session, and would still like to see a fix.
A recent study by the NYU's Brennan Center found that district court vacancies are at record highs -- some 10 percent of the seats are empty, compared to a 4.4 percent vacancy rate in the Bush administration.
And the Senate has yet to deal with some of its more controversial nominations, including the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Richard Cordray, and three judges for the federal appeals court for the D.C. circuit.
Democratic sources confirmed a New York Times report that leaders are weighing a change that would end filibusters on presidential picks for administrative posts, but not for judgeships. It's a plan that appears to have been in the works for some time. HuffPost reported in May that Democrats were gearing up for a fight around Cordray's job this month.
Sources who requested anonymity because the talks are still ongoing said Reid could announce his intent to proceed on nominations soon after the Thursday meeting, with voting possibly beginning next week.
Cordray's nomination is tops on the list for Democrats, but they are also determined to get Gina McCarthy in at the EPA. The National Labor Relations Board is also approaching a crisis, and could soon lack enough members to do any work, dealing a severe blow to labor's ability to defend against workplace violations.
Jennifer Bendery contributed reporting
This article has been updated to note Reid's meeting on Tuesday with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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Nuts Bring Buckets of Same
Just in case anyone forgot that the House Judiciary Committee ACORN hearing was a House Judiciary Committee hearing about ACORN, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/02/acorn-hearing-a-barrel-of_n_376882.html">Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) helpfully brought a bucket of acorns</a> to the House Judiciary Committee. Also that day, colleague Lamar Smith praising the "turnout so early in the day" at 2:30pm, and Louie Gohmert offering up the malaprop: “From one acorn, many nuts can grow.” Like, say, Peter King.
Hello Kitty, Hello Revolving Debt
Credit cards. Were it not for them, we would have to save up money in order to buy things. But do some credit cards take it too far, marketing to the youths? Byron Dorgan thought so when he saw the Hello Kitty Platinum VISA. "Does it seem to you like they’re targeting that 10-year-old, the 14-year-old." Ha! He should see the <a href="http://www.shopinprivate.com/hello-kitty-pink-guilty.html">Hello Kitty vibrator</a>.
"I'll See Your Baby, And Raise You Two Tweens"
Last time out, we made mention of Representative John Shadegg's (R-Ariz.) attempt to wield a baby in order to make a point about how terrible health care reform was. We neglected to mention that Representative Pete Stark (D-Calif.) took it a step further, and attempted to bring two young children to make his own points about health care (5:25 in video), at which point the House was officially barred from trafficking in human props any further.
John Thune's Stackin' Dollars
How much is too much stimulus? When it allows representatives to make junior high math analogies based on topography and astronomy, maybe. Here, Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) makes some stupid pictures of dollar stacks that extend into the sky, to the celestial firmament itself. “If you took 100 dollar bills, Mr. President," Thune said, "and stacked them on top of each other you would have a stack that goes 689 miles high.” He added, "In other words, if you took the 100 dollar bills and not stacked them on top of each other, but wrapped them side-by-side all around the earth… If you could believe this, it’d go around the earth almost 39 times." So, we cannot stimulate the economy, because of science! (1:15 in clip)
Gettin' High On Your Own Supply (Of A Substance That Does Not Get You High)
Representative Steve Buyer (R-Ind.) wasn't having any of that whole "regulating tobacco" stuff. Why? Because it's "not the nicotine that kills, it's the smoke!" So, he argued, why don't we regulate lettuce, to keep people from smoking lettuce? Wouldn't that prevent a "pandemic" of cancers? This would have been a good point, were it not for the non-existence of either a massive industry geared toward curing lettuce and rolling it into cigarettes, or a target market of consumers who were even remotely interested in smoking lettuce. BUT YEAH OTHER THAT ALL THAT STUFF (and the fact that nicotine is addictive) STEVE BUYER IS A GENIUS.
And Now, A Poem From Ted Poe
From Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas): <i>It came on two pages, It has withstood the ages. / The word "shall,'' is only 10 times mentioned, But enough to get one's attention. / No taxes did this law raise, To this day it continues to create much praise; / Two great religions does it claim, The "Law of the Ten Commandments'' is its name. / A current writing, 1,990 pages long, Has a socialist philosophy that is all wrong; / Difficult for the people to understand, And troubling what big government doth demand. / Over 3,445 "shalls'' it does loudly shout, New massive taxes does it proudly tout; / Written in secret by the bureaucrats, For exclusive use of the taxacrats. / The Congressional bill called "Health Care Reform," Is illusionary, the authors are still ill-informed; / Government ought not take over America's health biz. / And that's just the way it is."</i> And so, America, this is why you should have to die of easily treated medical conditions.
And Now, An Even Dumber Poem, From Roland Burris
From the junior senator from Illinois: <i>"It was the night before Christmas, and all through the Senate / The right held up our health care bill, no matter what was in it / The people had voted a mandated reform / But Republicans blew off the gathering storm / We'll clog up the Senate, they cried with a grin / And in the midterm elections, we'll get voted in / They knew regular folks needed help right this second / But fundraisers, lobbyists and politics beckoned / So try as they might, Democrats could not win / Because the majority was simply too thin / Then across every state there rose such a clatter / The whole senate rushed out to see what was the matter / All sprang up from their desk and ran from the floor / Straight through the cloakroom and right out the door."</i> <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/22/burris-backs-reform-with_n_400456.html">There's more</a>, but you will probably want to shoot yourself in the face after you read it.
Chuck Grassley Goes All Aggro On The Speaker Box
For some reason, in the course of discussing fuel efficiency standards, Senator Chuck Grassley decided he should drive his point home by shouting out Ashton Kutcher and his movie, "Dude, Where's My Car." Prior to this, Grassley went on an <a href="http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Speech_by_GOP_Senator_references_stoner_0924.html">extended monologue</a> about Pink Floyd's <i>Dark Side of the Moon</i> album and the shards of a broken prism and the "multishades" of light. Just straight up tripping balls, in the well of the Senate. Anyway, as you now know, this TOTALLY fixed fuel efficiency standards!
Sam Brownback Will Save Your Inanimate Genetic Material
Who's looking out for your precious bodily fluids? Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, that's who. And he's enlisted the help of a young girl, named Hannah, who has the power of talking to human embryos! "<a href="http://thinkprogress.org/2006/07/18/brownback-embryo/">Are you going to kill me?</a>" the embryos asked Hannah, who immediately scrawled a picture of this conversation on a giant piece of posterboard, so that Sam Brownback could stop people from killing the stem cells. And then Sam Brownback went on to support a bunch of wars in the Middle East!
The Most Important Prop Of All
James Inhofe (R-Batshit) hates him some gay marriage, and the gays in general. And to make his point, he carries around with him The Most Important Prop in America: a picture of his family. "As you see here, and I think this is maybe the most important prop we’ll have during the entire debate, my wife and I have been married 47 years. We have 20 kids and grandkids. I’m really proud to say that in the recorded history of our family, we’ve never had a divorce or any kind of homosexual relationship." Ha! THAT HE KNOWS OF!