Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) temper flared after Democrats threatened Wednesday to invoke the “nuclear option” and weaken the minority’s filibuster powers if Republicans block the nomination of Srinivasan to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.George W. Bush got four nominees to the D.C. Circuit, one of whom was John Roberts. President Obama has yet to have any confirmed to fill the four vacant seats on the 11-seat court. Republicans have filibustered all of them, and if Wednesday's hearing is an indication, are going to do it with current nominee Sri Srinivasan as well. One indication is Grassley's new hobby-horse: the court doesn't need 11 seats, anyway. He has a reverse-court-packing plan for the D.C. Circuit Court, taking three seats away from it so that no Obama appointees could be on it, keeping it in the hands of stauch conservatives.
“You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me that we Republicans were stupid in 2005 when we didn’t do the nuclear option when they were complaining that ‘you shouldn’t do that, you should never do it,’” Grassley told TPM after the hearing.
At the confirmation hearing Wednesday, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) accused the GOP of violating the January rules change agreement when they last month filibustered President Obama’s prior nominee to the powerful court, Caitlin Halligan.
Unless Democrats act, unless they go nuclear and break the filibuster, no critical Obama nominees—from the courts to the Consumer Financial Protection Board—will be appointed. Harry Reid is making noises about breaking the nominations filibuster, and the Srinivasan obstruction could be the catalyst. But unless Democrats also break the filibuster for legislation, any bill that gets passed by this Senate will be negotiated and watered down to become meaningless. Here's the other thing to take away from Grassley's tantrum: If the Republicans get the Senate back, they'll go nuclear in a heartbeat.
Every Democratic senator, and Harry Reid, has to understand that. They also have to realize that the agreement the Senate came to in January for rules reform has changed nothing as far as Republicans are concerned, and it's time to do more.