Harry Reid is talking filibuster again and threatening more reform, this time over the Republican insistence on holding up votes on nominations, even after last year's rule change.
“I don’t plan on changing the rules today again, but how much longer can we put up with this? Even law enforcement officers … even law enforcement officers, as I’ve indicated here, they’re holding them up for no reason,” Reid said. “You don’t hear people coming down here giving speeches about what horrible people the president selected to be the U.S. attorney in Louisiana, New Mexico and Connecticut, not a word. They just hide behind their obstruction.” […]Republicans will howl, pointing to all the judges they've been allowing votes on. But those judges prove Reid's point. Consider these six district judges confirmed at the end of last month. Every single one of them received a unanimous vote—not a single Republican voted against them. And yet Reid had to file cloture, and waste hours and hours of "debate" time which ticked away with no one debating their nominations. It happened again early this month, and again last week, twice—nominees receiving unanimous support but still being subject to time-wasting cloture votes because Republicans refuse to allow Reid to bypass cloture with unanimous consent.
“Eric Holder called me yesterday, and said is there anything that can be done to help me? So again, I’ll have to file cloture on these,” Reid said, calling the time for debate after cloture votes on nominations an “arbitrary number.”
That may prove telling. An agreement last year reduced debate time on the Senate floor for a variety of lower-level positions. What Reid suggested Tuesday is that if there isn’t more time yielded back (or confirmations in large batches by unanimous consent), he may move to curtail that debate time.
This is part of the ongoing Republican hissy fit over last year's rule changes, ending the 60 vote majority necessary to get nominations passed. That rule change was necessary because of unprecedented Republican obstruction leaving high-level posts vacant. It dealt with those high profile cases, but dozens and dozens of lower court vacancies, as well as State and Justice Department positions, remain unfilled because Republicans are using every trick in the book to keep them empty.
Reid's threats might break a few nominees loose this summer, but the only real long-term solution is going to have to be more filibuster reform—starting with cutting debate time and ending with a return to a real, talking filibuster. Obstruction is too painless and too easy now, and that has to be changed.