Harry Reid: More Senate Rule Changes Possible

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has floated the possibility of once again using the “nuclear option” to speed up the confirmation of nominations for ambassadors and Judicial Department vacancies on Tuesday. He said that he will not change the Senate’s rules while Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was absent for his primary, but may explore his options if he is not able to clear the decks more quickly. In the short term, changing the rules would speed up the confirmation process but it is unclear what the long-term effects would be, especially if the Republican Party takes control of the Senate.

Senator Reid’s comments are the latest in a series of disputes between the parties following the use of the nuclear option last fall. In November 2013, Senate Democrats used the controversial parliamentary tactic eliminate the filibuster for Executive Branch and sub-Supreme Court Judicial Branch nominations. In the aftermath, Senate Republicans have responded by slowing other nominations. According to the Washington Examiner, Senator John Cornyn voiced his displeasure with Senator Reid’s comments, stating “…the majority leader wants to break the Senate rules, which they did by invoking the nuclear option, and then when we’re trying to apply the rules allowing for 30 hours [debate] post-cloture, he somehow thinks that’s an unreasonable position.” According to Senator Cornyn, if it were not for the nuclear option, there would likely be more bipartisan cooperation in the Senate. As the Congressional Institute’s Surviving Inside Congress notes, “If the majority takes away the voice of the minority and makes it impossible for them to constructively participate in the crafting of legislation, the minority has no alternative but to obstruct the process that deprives them of their voice.”

Earlier this month, President Obama called for changes to the filibuster in a speech at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Roll Call: Reid Hints at ‘Nuclear’ Summer Over Debate Time

Washington Examiner: Harry Reid Threatens to Change Senate Rules Again to Bypass Republicans

Obama: Senate Needs to Change ‘How a Filibuster Works’

Congressional Primary Elections Today

Georgia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Idaho, and Oregon have primaries on Tuesday, making it the biggest primary day this election cycle.

The closest race will be in Georgia, where state law requires a July run-off election between the top two finishers in the primary if no candidate reaches 50 percent of the vote. Seven candidates running for the vacant seat left by Senator Saxby Chambliss’s retirement, making a run-off virtually guaranteed.  Representative Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue lead the polls, with former secretary of state Karen Handel trailing closely behind.  The winner will face Democrat Michelle Nunn in November.

Another closely watched race is the Kentucky primary between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin. Senator McConnell will have a landslide win, but the Wall Street Journal suggests how Senator McConnell fares could give some insight into his general election against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. According to Dante Chinni of American University, Senator McConnell will need a strong performance in the state’s rural counties to win in November, and if he manages to secure the evangelical communities like Caldwell, Ohio, and Webster counties in the primary it would bode well for the general election.

Roll Call: McConnell, Grimes Race Has Already Begun as Primary Concludes

Wall Street Journal: Politics Counts: Key Factors in Kentucky, Georgia Primaries

Wall Street Journal: Primary Preview: Five Races to Watch

And for our latest post: Using the “Pen and Phone” to Blur the Separation of Powers

And for all our posts: Congressional Institute Blog Archive