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December 11, 2013 4:58 AM Post-Nuclear Option, Republicans Haven’t Gone on an Obstruction Binge—Yet

By Jonathan Bernstein

While waiting for the budget deal, Senate Democrats are attempting to get through a bunch of nominations before the end of the session.

Republicans this morning are forcing extra votes, with Mitch McConnell just now forcing a re-vote on the nuclear option — that is, the new precedent that cloture on nominations only takes a simple majority.

The tell that it’s all for show? Republicans did agree to the standard motion to allow committees to meet. If they really were going all-out to “shut down the Senate,” that’s one they could have objected to.

We’ll see. Democrats have filed cloture petitions on ten new nominations — that’s in addition to Mel Watt (cloture to be voted on this morning) and the three DC Circuit nominees, the first of whom was confirmed this morning. Reid wants to run through all 14 of these, plus other less important exec branch nominations which typically would go by unanimous consent late in the session. If Republicans maximize stalling maneuvers, Reid can hold the Senate in later, threatening to take them to Christmas.

My strong guess is that Republicans will back off pretty quickly. Sure, they’ll put up a little show of obstruction, but in this case resistance really is futile.

Reid has ordered his cloture petitions with the Homeland Security Secretary last, presumably because it’s a more believable claim that he won’t leave town until he gets to that one. Of course, he could be bluffing; if Republicans really do drag things out, he can always drop some of the intervening nominations. I doubt it, but I guess we’ll see.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.

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