IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Reid's clever move on judicial nominees

Associated Press

Senate Republicans have blocked President Obama's judicial nominees in ways unseen in American history. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) thinks he's found a way to make some progress on the issue.

As a rule, Reid has lacked leverage -- GOP lawmakers support very few policy measures, and have a non-existent legislative agenda, making tradeoffs difficult. But Republicans strongly support the poorly-named "JOBS Act," which we discussed last week. It's a very modest bill, much of which has already passed, but Republicans are eager to appear constructive in an election year, and are desperate to see the proposal become law.

The Democratic Senate leader is comfortable with the bill, but would like to see some give and take before lining up a vote. Sahil Kapur has a good piece on Harry Reid playing a little hardball on the Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has a message for the Republicans: Filibuster over a dozen judicial nominees, as you've threatened to, and the country can watch for weeks as you hold up the bipartisan JOBS Act. I dare you. [...] Reid pulled procedural levers Monday to force action on 17 stalled, non-controversial judicial nominees to federal trial courts -- just as the Senate was expected to take up the House-passed JOBS Act, a modest GOP-led bill to encourage economic growth by loosening regulations on small business capital formation. That presents Republicans with a conundrum: proceed with the promised filibusters and eat up weeks of floor time while the JOBS Act sits in limbo; or accede to Reid's demands and hand Democrats a win -- and a bunch of federal judges.

Because of the time-consuming nature of Republican obstructionist tactics, waiting for GOP senators to block each of these judicial nominees could delay action on the JOBS Act until May.

Keep in mind, the judicial nominees in question aren't contentious, wild-eyed choices, hated by the right -- each of these would-be jurists has enjoyed bipartisan support. There's simply no reason for the Senate minority to block their confirmation votes.

And that leaves Republicans with a choice that should be easy: allow up-or-down votes on non-controversial judges, or wait several weeks before passing the JOBS Act they want. This whole process could be wrapped up this week, or it could bring the chamber to a halt for several weeks.

For his part, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) seems to prefer the latter. Reid even offered to bring up the JOBS Act immediately yesterday afternoon, if only McConnell would agree to let the Senate do its job on these nominees.

The Republican leader rejected the offer out of hand. No matter how severe the vacancy crisis on the federal bench, McConnell would rather block qualified judicial nominees than govern.