November 1, 2013

How many times? Is Harry Reid waiting for a hand to reach out of the sky and smite the Republicans? How many times does this happen before he sacks up, does his job and changes the frigging filibuster rules?

WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans filibustered one of President Barack Obama's top judicial nominees on Thursday, the clearest sign yet that the Senate may be heading for a messy partisan showdown that could result in Democrats revamping Senate filibuster rules.

The Senate voted 55-38 to advance D.C. Circuit Court nominee Patricia Millett. Democrats needed 60 votes to clear a procedural motion, which meant they needed at least five Republicans to join them. In the end, only two did: Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska). Three senators voted "present."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed to revisit Millett's nomination "at some point in the very near future." He also left the door open to changing the Senate rules.

"I hope my Republican colleagues will reconsider their continued run of unprecedented obstructionism," he said. "Something has to change, and I hope we can make the changes necessary through cooperation.”

The failed vote is a blow to Obama and Democrats, who gave a major push to Millett's campaign this week. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others held a Tuesday press conference highlighting Millett's background as a Supreme Court appellate lawyer and a military spouse.

Just before the vote, Leahy, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, railed against Republicans for planning to filibuster an "outstanding" nominee like Millett. He warned that Democrats may be forced to take "drastic measures" if Republicans keep obstructing key Obama nominees for political reasons, suggesting that Democrats may change Senate rules to strip Republicans of their power to filibuster certain nominees.

"If the Republican caucus finds that, despite her amazing, stellar legal reputation and commitment to her country, that somehow a filibuster is warranted, I believe this body will need to consider anew whether a rules change should be in order," Leahy fumed.

He specifically called out GOP senators who have argued in the past that a president's nominees shouldn't be filibustered if they don't meet the criteria for "extraordinary circumstances."

"It's not fair," he said. "It's not an extraordinary circumstance. There's no justification for it."

One of those Republicans was Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Not only did he help broker a deal over the summer that narrowly averted filibuster reform, but he said in June about D.C. Circuit nominees that he has "always thought that judges should get votes," regardless of which president nominates them, because "elections have consequences."

On Thursday, however, McCain said before the vote that he planned to filibuster Millett. He cited "extraordinary circumstances," though he did not provide specifics.

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