If GOP retakes the Senate, would Mitch McConnell restore the filibuster?

When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) went nuclear Nov. 21 and changed Senate rules to limit filibusters on most nominees, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) decried the move, saying, “The solution to this problem is at the ballot box. We look forward to having a great election in 2014.”

McConnell added: “I don’t think this is a time to be talking about reprisal. I think it’s a time to be sad about what has been done to the United States Senate.” (Of course Reid, when the Republicans were in the majority and thinking about changing the rules, said such a move would be “illegal” and “un-American.”)

So, if the Republicans retake the Senate after the November elections, will they restore the old filibuster rules? If Jeb or Mitt win in 2016, things could get really interesting.

Since triggering the option, Reid has been slowly getting nominees, especially President Obama’s judicial nominees, confirmed, although Republicans have used Senate rules to dramatically slow down nominations.

Lately, however, some Senate observers are detecting hints of more bipartisan agreement in confirming noncontroversial nominees. We were told that although it would be an overstatement to call it a “thaw” in the nuclear-freeze climate, there has been, one person said, a “steady trickle” of confirmations of late.

This month the Senate confirmed three Obama nominees to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which oversees some potentially risky trades, such as ones that helped trigger the 2008 economic meltdown.

And last week two leaders agreed to move, probably this week, on several more nominees, including Brian A. Nichols to be ambassador to Peru, Gustavo Velasquez Aguilar to be assistant secretary of housing and urban development, J. Mark McWatters to be a member of the National Credit Union Administration board and Christine E. Wormuth to be undersecretary of defense.

Next weekend, Nichols, a career Foreign Service officer and Latin America hand, will mark the first anniversary of his nomination. Well, you don’t want to rush these things.

Not their cup of tea

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) can use as much help as he can get right now. Even if that help comes from some odd places.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has devoted most of his political capital to gun control efforts, and former Facebook president and Napster co-founder Sean Parker, who is a generous donor, mostly to Democrats, each donated a quarter of a million dollars to the super PAC backing Cochran’s reelection bid.

Henry Barbour, nephew of Haley Barbour, the former Mississippi governor, runs Mississippi Conservatives. The PAC reported $1.28 million in contributions from mid-May through June 4.

Barbour told the Loop he did not want to speak for Bloomberg or Parker but surmised that although they disagree on many issues, “they’re giving because they see [Cochran] is not an extremist like Chris McDaniel.”

Cochran is fighting for his political life as he faces a primary runoff against McDaniel, the tea party’s pick.

A spokesman for Bloomberg declined to comment. Parker, for his part, just formed a new group to “re-energize interest in democracy by bringing together people who are passionate about different issues.”

Perhaps he is leading by example?

Still bringing in the cash

Speaking of fundraising, just because a relative handful of Republicans tossed him out of a job last week, outgoing House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) has no hard feelings toward his soon-to-be-former minions. In fact, seems he’s working hard for them.

Cantor, a prolific fundraiser — second only, perhaps, to Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) in the House, is on tap to be a “special guest” at a July 9 fundraiser for Rep. John Carter (R-Tex.). Our invite notes helpfully that Carter is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

It’s only $2,500 to be a PAC “co-host,” $1,000 for a PAC and, if you simply want to hang out in the Capitol Hill Club with John and Eric, just $500.

Kindle, then Bern

Ambassador to Switzerland Suzi LeVine made history May 30 when she became the first ambassador to take the oath of office on an e-reader rather than the usual paper Bible or Constitution.

The Amazon Kindle was opened to the 19th Amendment, which gave U.S. women the right to vote in 1920.

On Wednesday, LeVine donated the historic e-reader to the Museum of Communication in Bern, Switzerland.

Levine said in Bern that she chose to be sworn in on her e-reader because it symbolized the best of the United States and showed that all citizens here have a voice in our democracy — a voice “that the Swiss have in their democracy, as well.”

(LeVine, diplomatically, didn’t note that it took the Swiss a bit longer to come around on the voting rights question. They finally granted women the right to vote in 1971.)

Our colleague Brian Fung reports that, while LeVine may be the first ambassador to avail herself of the new technology, New Jersey firefighters were sworn in on an iPad edition of the Bible last February when no one could find a print version. And a New York official did the same a month before that.

It’s pronounced ‘oops’

A Loop Apology. Several readers complained about an item last week in which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) asked Dana Shell Smith, at the hearing on her nomination as ambassador to Qatar, how to pronounce “Qatar.” Problem was we linked online to a video of Smith’s explanation, but didn’t include the link in the print version.

The link is wapo.st/qatarguide.

And if you’re without a computer, cut´-er will do.

— With Colby Itkowitz

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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