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Earlier this week, Harry Reid hinted that he might use the Richard Cordray nomination to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a nomination over which Republicans have maintained a filibuster spanning two Congresses, to test his caucus's appetite for real reform. Now two more nominations have made it out of committee and the tipping point might just be in reach. In addition to Cordray, EPA nominee Gina McCarthy and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez are ready for floor votes.
Democrats say that Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, in recent days has been trying to gauge whether there is sufficient support among Democrats to force a rule change that would limit the filibuster on presidential nominees. [...]
“The showdown is coming,” said Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, who has been working with Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico on efforts to overhaul filibuster rules.
“And the leadership is very engaged in preparing how to deal with this and how to change this so advise and consent does not become an instrument of destruction.”
To implement a rule change with a simple majority, Democrats like Mr. Merkley and Mr. Reid would have to overcome deep skepticism from many within their own ranks, particularly more senior senators who worry about the precedent such a move would set.
“You think you’ve got gridlock now?” said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan. “You think you’ve got problems now? You will have a huge, huge outpouring of real anger.”
The question for Sen. Levin is what could possibly be worse if the Republicans are angry? They'll be angry obstructionists instead of just obstructionists? Levin was among those standing in the way of real rules reform at the beginning of this session, and his balking was one of the reasons why the reform that was enacted has been so toothless. If anything, Republicans have ratcheted up their obstruction, with stunts like boycotting committee votes on nominees. (They successfully blocked the McCarthy committee vote last week by not showing up, knowing that with an ailing Sen. Frank Lautenberg absent, the committee couldn't proceed because it didn't have quorum. The vote passed this week because the ill Lautenberg was forced to attend and vote.) Compromising with the Republicans on "reforms" in January only seems to have emboldened them to escalate their stalling tactics.
Democrats have a responsibility in this mess, too, a responsibility to their constituents to make the Senate work again. It's time to move beyond the finger-pointing and blaming Republicans for gridlock. It's time to move beyond the threats. It's time for Democrats to do what's in their power to do.