Key senator joins filibuster fight
November 19th, 2013
05:20 PM ET
10 months ago

Key senator joins filibuster fight

Washington (CNN) - Supporters of a move to end filibusters of presidential nominees picked up a key ally Tuesday.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a veteran California Democrat, says she has changed her mind and now supports using the so-called "nuclear option" - changing Senate rules over the objections of Republicans to prevent those filibusters. She said she has been persuaded to take the extraordinary step because the public is anxious to have Washington work and "you can't do it if the President can't get a cabinet, a sub-cabinet, judges, commissioners." Filibusters require 60 votes to set aside, a high hurdle in the narrowly divided Senate.

The longtime member of the Judiciary Committee said blocking nominees has "never been as bad as it is now" and blamed "politics" for the GOP-led filibusters of three recent nominees to the important District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals.

Feinstein made her decision known to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid when he called her about the issue recently.

It's unclear if proponents now have the 51 votes necessary to change the rules. Reid refused to answer that question at a news conference Tuesday, and he didn't indicate whether he'd actually carry out the "nuclear option."

Typically, 67 votes are needed to make a change in the Senate rules.

Republicans, who have repeatedly urged the majority Democrats not to carry out their threat, argue it is their constitutional right to reject presidential picks.

"If advise and consent is going to mean anything at all then occasionally there's going to be a situation where consent is not given," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell who argued the vast majority of President Obama's nominees have been approved. "By any objective standard, we have not been abusing" the filibuster of confirmations.

In the case of the D.C. Circuit, Republicans say the workload for the court doesn't necessitate additional judges at this time.

Republicans warned the use of the "nuclear option" could destroy the working relationship between Democrats and Republicans.

"It would make it very, very difficult going forward," said Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, a member of the GOP leadership. "It's going to have consequences."

"I understand there is going to be blowback," Feinstein said. "We're just going to have to handle it."

In recent weeks a growing number of senior senators have said they are open to changing the rules. They include Sen. Patrick Leahy, the longest-serving Democratic senator. Vice President Joe Biden, who served decades in the Senate and is known to cherish Senate tradition, also said the idea now is worth considering.


Filed under: Dianne Feinstein • Senate
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. tom l

    During the 108th Congress in which the Republicans regained control of the Senate by a 51-49 margin, the nominees that the Senate Democrats had blocked in the 107th Congress began to be moved through the now Republican Senate Judiciary Committee.[10] Subsequently Senate Democrats started to filibuster judicial nominees. On February 12, 2003, Miguel Estrada, a nominee for the D.C. Circuit, became the first court of appeals nominee ever to be successfully filibustered.[citation needed] Later, nine other conservative court of appeals nominees were also filibustered. These nine were Priscilla Owen, Charles W. Pickering, Carolyn Kuhl, David W. McKeague, Henry Saad, Richard Allen Griffin, William H. Pryor, William Gerry Myers III and Janice Rogers Brown.[11] Three of the nominees (Estrada, Pickering and Kuhl) withdrew their nominations before the end of the 108th Congress.

    So it just depends on who is president.

    November 19, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. John

    McConnell........"Occasionally there is going to be a lack of consent"...................like 4 out of the last 5 judges, and a 223 wait to even have it heard (compared to 15 days during Reagan's term.)............they have held our country hostage long enough......the nuclear option is the only reasonable option left, or we will have 3 more years of do nothing and approve nothing..........

    November 19, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  3. freedom

    They're trying to eliminate any checks and balances, and that is a very bad idea, no matter who the president is. If it isn't obvious to America by now (Obamacare, IRS scandals, Benghazi lies, etc.), these officials can become power hungry, and lose sight of their sworn oaths to the American people.

    November 19, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  4. Rick McDaniel

    The Dem are simply corrupt........they did it over and over again, when they didn't have the majority.........now they want to simply steal the vote by changing the rules, so they can have their complete dictatorship in America.

    November 19, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  5. freedom

    Obama broke his contract with the American people – and there are consequences. Trying to eliminate checks and balances is the not the answer. It is painfully obvious how badly they're needed.

    November 19, 2013 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  6. Gurgyl

    Pass felibuster,Earmark reform with federal voter reform.

    November 19, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  7. Sniffit

    "During the 108th Congress in which the Republicans regained control of the Senate by a 51-49 margin, the nominees that the Senate Democrats had blocked in the 107th Congress began to be moved through the now Republican Senate Judiciary Committee.[10] Subsequently Senate Democrats started to filibuster judicial nominees. On February 12, 2003, Miguel Estrada, a nominee for the D.C. Circuit, became the first court of appeals nominee ever to be successfully filibustered.[citation needed] Later, nine other conservative court of appeals nominees were also filibustered. These nine were Priscilla Owen, Charles W. Pickering, Carolyn Kuhl, David W. McKeague, Henry Saad, Richard Allen Griffin, William H. Pryor, William Gerry Myers III and Janice Rogers Brown.[11] Three of the nominees (Estrada, Pickering and Kuhl) withdrew their nominations before the end of the 108th Congress.

    So it just depends on who is president.
    "

    Lame, tom, Lame. Apples and oranges. The GOP/Teatrolls' abuse of the filibuster and the number of nominees they've blocked is orders of magnitude larger than anything the Dems have ever done to a Republican president. The Dems also, at least had the brains and honesty to provide reasons related to the nominees' fitness and qualifications, instead of trying to turn everything upside down, claim things like "Obama's trying to pack the court" and then demanding that the statutes be changed to mandate less judges for that court. It's not even in the same ballpark and your desperate flailing to draw a false equivalence just shows how biased you are in favor of the people whose behavior has so clearly gone well beyond the pale.

    Besides, get with the program. The GOP/Teatrolls are doing this as a way of nullifying the law and Obama's powers AND so that the Dems will be forced to get rid of the filibuster with respect to nominees. They then think they have a winning issue for 2014 and an excuse for getting rid of the filibuster entirely next time they're in control.

    Reid and company should go nuclear then put the rule back in place so the GOP/Teatrolls have to repeal ALL of it if they ever want to play the revenge game.

    November 19, 2013 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  8. don in albuquerque

    I wouldn't worry about it freedom. The GOTP will probably eliminate the vote before this happens, and then we won't have to worry about anything.....isn't that a world you could get behind.

    November 19, 2013 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  9. Sniffit

    BTW, nomination confirmation percentages for some perspective:

    Clinton:
    Overall – 79%
    District Ct. – 82%
    Circuit Ct. – 68%

    Bush:
    Overall – 91%
    District Ct. – 94%
    Circuit Ct. – 81%

    Obama:
    Overall – 76%
    District Ct. – 77%
    Circuit Ct. – 71%

    Stop lying out of your faces and claiming that the Dems treat GOP nominations the same as the GOP has treated the Dems' nominations. It's just not even remotely comparable.

    November 19, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  10. NUCLEARMIND

    We have another Mark Twain in our midst. "Republicans warned the use of the "nuclear option" could destroy the working relationship between Democrats and Republicans." Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaa!

    November 19, 2013 06:22 pm at 6:22 pm |
  11. Rob

    The Dems are fine with it if it works in their favor. They could care less about the people. As for the GOP blocking Obama's nominees, good for them. Given Obama's record, America can't take much more of his incompetence

    November 19, 2013 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  12. GonzoinHouston

    They have to make some kind of change, especially for administration positions. I can see the need for something to resist the most extremely political jurists because they have lifetime appointments. But all the administrative positions are for the life of the administration, and the president should be able to pick his own team.

    November 19, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S.F.

    I am convinced that RWNJs are like a terminal cancer.

    November 19, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  14. don in albuquerque

    @Rick McDaniel-Did it take you all day to come up with that idiot post?

    November 19, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  15. MIKLE

    Wait until 2014. Dem. going to see.

    November 19, 2013 07:53 pm at 7:53 pm |
  16. timverba

    I dont think we have developed the technology to run the government without people. We already have the salaries in the budget, so we might as well pay someone to do the work.

    November 19, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Liz the First

    It's time to do whatever is necessary to get the government back to work. there is no excuse for filibustering every single thing. the rethugs have been on strike since January, 2009. how much progress could have been made if they'd been thinking about helping the country instead of hurting Obama? anyone who votes for these idiots in '14 hates this country as much as they do.

    November 19, 2013 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  18. Dianne

    Occasionally?! NOT abusing their power?!! That would be laughable under other circumstances.

    November 19, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  19. Norma Vessels

    How can the Republicans be any more persistent in blocking anything progressive than they are now. There won't be a bit of difference in how they say no to everything coming their way. No difference ... except, if it comes to pass that the fifibuster is elimated by the nuclear option, then we will see Judges put where they should be put .. and maybe even other good things will get done for us, the people, for a change.

    November 19, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  20. Name jk. Sfl. GOP CRUZ lee&rubio 24billion dallar LOSS of your tax money conservatives,the garbage of America.

    JUST DO IT, these GOP tea losers have been abusing the filibuster in record numbers AGAINEST Obama appointments. Time to get the country moving again. Like the GOP ever was cooperating. SCREW THE GOP !!!!

    November 19, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  21. Sammy

    Harry Reid has no guts, he continues to allow the Republicans to block all Obama nominations. The Republicans are obstructing Justice in this nation. G. Bush packed the courts as soon as he was elected. We see that in the decisions they are making. Obama is NOT pushing his nominations hard enough. Obama don't know how to LEAD and win.

    November 19, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  22. jinx9to88

    "Republicans warned the use of the "nuclear option" could destroy the working relationship between Democrats and Republicans." said Sen. John Thune. LMAO!!! What working relationship? The GOP wacko's are crazy if they call what has been going on the last 5 years a "working relationship"!!

    November 19, 2013 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  23. Rob

    It's not even a contest – look up the actual figures of Republican filibusters over Obama's two terms. It's the most in all of our history. Also, the filibuster is not one of the Constitution's checks and balances. If you disagree with me, fine, please cite the section and paragraph of the Constitution that gives the minority party in Congress the right to block anything anytime for any reason.

    November 19, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  24. Steve Hamilton

    Rick: Is what Senator Reid is planning to do unconstitutional? If not, he can change the rules. The potential downside, of course, is that when and if the GOP controls the Senate, then Democrats could not continue to pervert the Senate's "advise and consent" authority. I don't think Reid is too concerned about that. Perversion and overreach are the characteristics of today's GOP right wing.

    November 19, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  25. Well isn’t that special.

    freedom

    Obama broke his contract with the American people – and there are consequences. Trying to eliminate checks and balances is the not the answer. It is painfully obvious how badly they're needed.
    ----------------------------------------
    Really? Please, you Tea Trolls never fight fair your just like the big bully on the playground if it doesn't go your way it's unfair....unfair... boohoo! Big cry babies.

    November 19, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
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