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Here's one promise Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appears ready to fulfill: He said he would force a filibuster showdown in July, and by all accounts, it could happen as early as this week. But a funny thing has happened on the way to this fight: Reid's and the rest of the Democrats' memories seem to be failing them.
WASHINGTON — In a move that could bring to a head six months of smoldering tensions over a Republican blockade of certain presidential nominees, Senate Democrats are preparing to force confirmation votes on a series of President Obama’s most contentious appointments as early as this week.
If Republicans object, Democrats plan to threaten to use the impasse to change the Senate rules that allow the minority party wide latitude to stymie action. [...]
Their plans represent a shift in strategy. Instead of picking fights over judges nominated by the president, where much of the tension has arisen this year, Democrats are likely to focus only on agency appointees. For example, they would line up a series of votes on nominees to run the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Labor Department and a politically important labor oversight board.
The rule change they would seek is intended to be limited. It would allow senators to continue to filibuster legislation and judges, but not appointments to federal agencies or cabinet posts.
Democrats think they've got a stronger footing here with the argument that a president should be abe to choose the team that will implement his policies. But the president is also supposed to appoint judges, and the Senate is supposed to provide advice and consent in that. And right now there are judicial emergencies all over the country because the Senate minority is preventing the body as a whole from doing its job. Do Democrats not remember that?
Do Democrats not remember that just a little over a month ago, when President Obama did his job by nominating three new candidates to vacant seats, Republicans insisted that he is actually trying to pack the court? Maybe they think that if they show their willingness to pull the trigger and go nuclear on one bunch of nominees, Republicans will finally come to their sense and start cooperating. Because there's so much precedent for Mitch McConnell and crew to make the Senate function.
Getting these executive nominees seated is critical, so huzzah to Democrats for wanting to do at least that much. But that alone is not going to fix the Senate. It's not going to help make government function again and it's not going to make Republicans start doing their job. The only way to get them out of the way is to make them irrelevant. And maybe once they've been made irrelevant, they'll actually want to start playing nice again.