WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will meet with his Democratic caucus on Thursday to decide how hard they will press for filibuster rules changes. According to Senate sources and multiple news reports, Reid will push the caucus to invoke its right to change the rules on filibustering executive branch nominees.
As CNN reported Wednesday, Reid is expected to press Democrats to use the so-called nuclear option to make filibusters more difficult in spite of strong Republican objection. The nuclear option would invoke parliamentary procedures to change Senate rules by a simple majority vote, rather than the supermajority of 67 senators typically required for such changes.
A Senate Democratic aide involved in the talks told The Huffington Post that Democrats are "on track for a vote" on rules changes, increasing pressure on Republicans.
Reid hinted at his intentions on Tuesday, telling reporters he would discuss confirmation fights with his caucus.
"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 said.
Reid's push for the nuclear option comes as several high-profile confirmation battles loom, including over Consumer Financial Protection Bureau pick Richard Cordray and Environmental Protection Agency nominee Gina McCarthy.
The Huffington Post's Michael McAuliff reported Tuesday:
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.
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.
Reid has long threatened to invoke the controversial procedure, but has said he would hold back if Senate Republicans agreed to be less obstructive in confirming President Barack Obama's nominees.
"If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action," Reid said in April.
A report by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law earlier this month found that judicial vacancies are at unprecedented levels under Obama, with a 10 percent vacancy rate in federal district courts. Under George W. Bush, those vacancies averaged 4.4 percent.