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Senate GOP eyes nominations rules change fight next week

January 21, 2019

Senate Republicans will make an attempt next week to change the chamber’s rules to reduce the obstructive power of the filibuster on presidential nominees, one of the party’s leaders said Monday.

Sen. Todd Young, chairman of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, said this week will be spent on immigration, but after that he expects action on the rules change proposals.

“This needs to happen for the good of the country. And I think there’ll be some Democrats who’ll be warm to this idea as well,” Mr. Young told radio show host Hugh Hewitt.

Changing the rules was a topic of conversation for Republican senators at their policy retreat last week, and party leaders are trying to see what support there is for several options.

One, enacting a standing rule of the Senate, would require them to achieve a 60-vote majority, which would mean Democrats would have to be on board.

Another option would be to trigger a “nuclear option” change in Senate precedent, which would mean reinterpreting the rules. That would only need a majority vote but it’s an aggressive strategy that some Republicans might be reluctant to pursue.

Still, there’s a wide sense of frustration within the GOP over Democrats’ obstruction, which has hit historic levels.

Democrats in 2013 cut the number of votes needed to overcome a filibuster on nominations from a 60-vote threshold to a majority vote, using the nuclear option tactic.

But the time allotted for debating each nominee even after a filibuster is defeated is still up to 30 hours, and Democrats have been demanding all that time be used in dozens of cases. That means some weeks the Senate’s entire business on the floor has been confirming three or four nominees and no other major action.

Republicans say the Senate should return to an agreement struck for President Obama’s nominees in 2013 cutting the amount of debate time after a filibuster has been defeated to just a couple of hours for lower-level positions. It would still leave 30 hours of debate for Cabinet posts.

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