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Sen. Klobuchar: Democrats shouldn’t have gone ‘nuclear’ on judicial nominees

But Senate Judiciary Committee member says it was never intended to be used on Supreme Court nominees

The Senate can’t even agree when its own filibuster rules should apply. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who sits on the Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that she regrets that her party eliminated the filibuster for approving most judicial nominees. The Judiciary Committee will grill Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, this week.

If the Democrats regain the majority next year, she said, she'd support bringing it back.

When Democrats controlled the Senate in 2013, then-Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) invoked what's known as the “nuclear option” to get around Republicans blocking President Barack Obama's judicial nominees. It allowed the Democrats to approve judges by a simple majority rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.

Back then, Reid used the maneuver for all non-Supreme Court judicial nominees. But when Democrats, now in the minority, tried to filibuster President Trump's first Supreme Court pick last year, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) used the nuclear option to get Neil M. Gorsuch through.

Now, with the nuclear option firmly in place, Democrats have little power to stop Kavanaugh's confirmation. During an interview Sunday on NBC News's “Meet the Press,” Klobuchar said that, in retrospect, the Democrats should have left the procedure alone.

"I would've liked to see 60 votes, no matter what the judge is. I don't think we should've made that change, when we look back at it,” she said. “But it happened because we were so frustrated, because President Obama wasn't able to get his nominees."

When moderator Chuck Todd asked whether she'd want to bring the filibuster back, Klobuchar said she'd “prefer to” but doubted that either party would.

"I don't think anyone's going to want to hamstring themselves,” she said.

The key players in the Kavanaugh hearings — and what’s at stake for each of them

When the Democrats changed the rules five years ago, Klobuchar supported doing so and even told MinnPost that she was fine with a future Republican majority invoking the nuclear option, too, but she made clear that Democrats were not applying those changes to Supreme Court nominees.

So, with its slim 50-to-49 majority, the GOP can approve Kavanaugh on a strictly party-line vote. In other words, if every Republican senator supports his confirmation, no Democratic votes are needed.

During the interview, Klobuchar also lamented that it's “not normal” that Trump is not allowing senators to see more than 100,000 documents from Kavanaugh's time working in the George W. Bush administration and that about 148,000 of the ones they have seen are not allowed to be shared with the public.

Klobuchar said that if she could comment on the documents now shielded from the public, she could raise “interesting questions” about Kavanaugh's qualifications.

"It would certainly strongly bolster the arguments that I could make,” she said.

But Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said in a news release Friday that he had offered to help committee members with waivers that would allow them to publicly discuss confidential documents at Kavanaugh's hearing.

He said Klobuchar was the only member to submit a request.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham on Sunday said he hoped Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh would “apply a test to overturn precedent” on Roe v. Wade. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)