Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid )D-Nevada) took to the floor Thursday to complain about the slow pace of judicial nominations. (C-Span)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., suggested Thursday that a controversial change to the Senate’s rules maybe didn’t go far enough when it comes to clearing the way for President Barack Obama’s judicial nominations.
Reid made the comment in a floor debate with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who had just announced that Republicans were not cooperating with Democrats when it came to scheduling judicial confirmation votes.
“Now we are slogging through these nominations. It is kind of slow because of the inordinate amount of time that we are caused to eat up,” Reid said. “But the longer my friend from Iowa talks, the more reason there is that maybe we should have changed the rules more than we did.”
The discussion displayed how the Senate’s partisanship still simmers as hot as ever when it comes to judicial nominations. Reid called all senators to the chamber Thursday afternoon to air his grievances about the pace of confirmations.
Reid called out Republicans for delaying a confirmation vote for Munger Tolles & Olson partner Michelle Friedland to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The Senate already had voted that morning, 56-41, to advance Friedland’s nomination to a confirmation vote, where her approval was a near certainty. All that remained were 30 hours of debate time that needed to run under the Senate’s procedural rules.
On the eve of a two-week recess, Reid questioned why Republicans again were refusing to waive the time on this nominee. If Republicans agreed, he said, they could have the vote right away. But instead, the Republicans are causing the Senate “just to do nothing, to stand around here and do nothing.”
Grassley said Republicans are responding to a Democrat-led move to change the Senate rules last year. That move, known as the “nuclear option,” stripped the minority party of the ability to thwart most judicial nominations. Democrats now can overcome a Republican filibuster with just a majority in a procedure called cloture.
“We are working under the rules that the majority changed by ignoring the rules of the U.S. Senate in November,” Grassley said. “So as the majority leader knows, we have not yielded back postcloture time on judicial nominations since the so-called nuclear option was triggered last November.
“We have followed the rules of the U.S. Senate for regular order on all judges before the Senate in the last five months, just exactly the way the rules were changed in November,” Grassley said. “So there is 30 hours of post-cloture debate on this nomination.”
Reid shot back with the suggestion that the change to the filibuster rules didn’t go far enough.
“Obviously this is not a dissertation on logic, because if it were, why in the world would we want to waste 30 hours doing nothing?” Reid said. “I know my friend from Iowa has been on the Judiciary Committee a long time. I appreciate all he has done, but it is apparent the only reason the senator from Iowa expresses delay is for delay itself, no other reason.”
Reid said the Friedland vote would have to come at 5 p.m. on Friday and apologized to Democrats that they would have to stay in town.
“We have a very good judge we need to approve,” Reid said. “Again, I am sorry for the inconvenience to members, but we have an obligation. We have been elected to be senators.”
The vote on Friedland’s confirmation, however, was expected to be delayed until the Senate returns to session April 28. Members of Reid’s own party left town, The Hill reported.