As I reported the other day, quoting a Senate Democratic aide, Reid is eying the possibility of changing the rules via the “nuclear option” — a simple majority vote — to end filibustering on nominations, but not on legislation.
Lending some weight to this threat, the Huffington Post reports that Reid is delaying the push to confirm Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau until July, after immigration reform is done. A Reid aide tells HuffPo that this is about postponing a major war over all of Obama’s nominees until July — which is also Reid’s target to trigger the nuclear option if necessary.
This — along with Reid’s public statements today — amounts to the sharpest line yet drawn by Reid. The Senate Majority Leader has been striking a delicate balancing act. His challenge has been to slowly escalate the threat level by giving his threats ever more specificity, while simultaneously maintaining an aura of credibility about them. The current threat comes very close to saying that if Republicans obstruct Cordray — and others, such as Gina McCarthy to head the EPA, and Thomas Perez as Labor Secretary — then Reid will push the nuke button.
Indeed, as Sahil Kapur notes, if the GOP blocks those nominations, the pressure on Reid to press the button will get very intense indeed. Major Democratic constituencies (labor, environmentalists) have a big stake in these nominees, and the consumer protection bureau represents a major component of one of Obama’s signature domestic initiatives — Wall Street reform.
By the way, all of this could have very far reaching implications indeed. As Jonathan Chait notes today, Obama and Republicans are headed for a major showdown over climate change this summer, one focused on his pending plan to curb carbon emissions from existing power plants. And the battle could unfold in the D.C. Circuit Court, where Obama has not yet filled vacancies. Republicans will filibuster any efforts to do that.
At any rate, given today’s public statements from Reid, if the current level of GOP obstructionism continues, it’s hard to see how he has room to not make good on his threat to hit that button.