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November 21, 2013 10:18 AM Nuke ‘Em, Harry!

By Ed Kilgore

After a couple of days of threats, there are growing signs that Harry Reid may well have the votes to “go nuclear” on judicial confirmation filibusters, perhaps as early as today. HuffPost’s Ryan Grim has the latest:

[T]he Senate’s inability to function, and the GOP’s steadfast opposition to appointing any new judges to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court, has worn down Democratic opposition to a rules change, leaving Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) as the lone outspoken opponent.
Feinstein and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) both flipped positions on Tuesday.
It’s still not clear if Reid has the 51 votes to make the change, but it certainly looks close. There are 55 Democrats in total, which means Reid can lose up to four. HuffPost tracked down a number of Democrats on Tuesday to see who remains opposed to making the change, and only one, Levin, definitively said no. A couple of others, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), avoided the question.

There’s little sign of the kind of “gang” negotiations that headed off an earlier “nuclear” threat, and for the most part Republicans are countering with their own threats to escalate the fight. According to WaPo’s Paul Kane, the rules change Democrats are looking at would ban filibusters of executive branch and lower-court federal judicial appointments. But Chuck Grassley, who precipitated the latest crisis by trying to reduce the size of the D.C. Court of Appeals in order to prevent Obama from filling open positions, is talking tough:

[Grassley] made clear that if that occurred, and the GOP reclaimed the Senate majority, the Republicans would then alter the rules so that Democrats could not filibuster a Republican pick for the Supreme Court. “If [Reid] changes the rules for some judicial nominees, he is effectively changing them for all judicial nominees, including the Supreme Court,” Grassley said Wednesday.

Well, it’s fine with me if both sides compete in restricting the power of the filibuster, up to and including its use to obstruct regular legislation. But then I have this little prejudice in favor of a functioning federal government and majority rule.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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