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Progressives Hailed Filibuster Reform, But It Could Haunt Them On Michael Boggs

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WASHINGTON -- Progressives championed last year's push for filibuster reform, which culminated in Democrats changing Senate rules to require only a simple majority of votes to advance most of President Barack Obama's nominees. Opponents warned that the shoe would eventually be on the other foot, and Democrats would find themselves in the minority with no ability to filibuster nominees they found noxious.

Liberal groups may face that predicament as they fight to bring down Michael Boggs, a controversial judicial pick backed by the White House.

More than two dozen left-leaning groups are lobbying senators to oppose Boggs, a Georgia district court nominee, given his socially conservative record on gay rights, civil rights and abortion. So far, their efforts have paid off: Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee pummeled Boggs during his confirmation hearing this week, and top Democratic leaders have all signaled opposition to him.

The problem is, if Boggs makes it out of committee, the votes may not be there to block his confirmation on the Senate floor. That's because of the Senate rules changes liberal groups fought for last year to help ease passage of the president's nominees.

It would take 51 votes to advance Boggs in the Senate -- before filibuster reform, 60 votes were necessary -- and there are currently 45 Republican senators. If all of them vote for Boggs' confirmation, which they will likely do given that he has the support of Georgia's Republican senators, they only need six Democrats to side with them.

Moderate Democrats or those up for re-election in Republican-leaning states could fit that bill. Democrats in those categories include Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Joe Manchin (W. Va.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and John Walsh (Mont.).

The Huffington Post reached out to their offices to gauge their positions on Boggs, and heard back from four: Spokespeople for Begich and Walsh said they will vote against Boggs' confirmation, while spokespeople for Manchin and Shaheen said they are still reviewing his nomination.

To be sure, Boggs may never even make it to the Senate floor. His chances look grim in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where not a single Democrat has suggested he or she will support him. There's also the possibility that Boggs will withdraw his nomination himself, given the level of opposition he's up against.

Two Senate Democratic leadership aides said it's still too early to tell where things are headed, though both said there's been no indication that Boggs plans to withdraw. At least, not yet.

"Depending on how it goes with the Senate Judiciary Committee, I wouldn’t rule it out," said one aide.

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