Senate

The GOP Has a Nuclear Option on Health Care

Rick Klein and Shushannah Walshe: “Want to really blow up the Senate – and fast? A new proposal is emerging that would likely do just that, and it has nothing to do with Senate Democrats’ vow to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. A proposal is being pushed by some Senate Republicans that would seek to ensure that a House-passed bill could be passed intact by only a simple majority of senators.”

“How would that work? Well, the vice president, of course, is the president of the Senate. The thinking goes that if the Senate parliamentarian ruled that parts of the bill can’t be folded into budget reconciliation, Vice President Mike Pence could simply overrule that. Sen. Rand Paul wants the White House to make that commitment now: ‘That alone, I think, would break the logjam,’ he told reporters Thursday. Perhaps, but that’s not all it would break. This would be the executive branch’s changing the rules of the upper legislative body. Filibusters could be broken, perhaps in any circumstance, at the whim of the vice president. In honor of a certain former veep, that would be a BFD.”

Do Senate Republicans Want This Bill to Pass?

First Read: “Don’t miss what Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, tweeted last night: ‘FYI: The Byrd Rule is actually a law.’ Translation for those unfamiliar with Senate arcana: The legislation that House Republicans are trying to pass probably don’t meet the rules that can avoid a Senate filibuster.”

“Think about it, Cornyn is warning his House colleagues that this legislation can’t pass the Senate. And that’s precisely what Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) stated earlier this month: ‘I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, ‘Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote.'”

Democrats Will Filibuster Gorsuch

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) announced he would oppose Judge Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court “and join other Democrats in filibustering the nomination, making it likely that the judge will struggle to find the support needed to clear a 60-vote procedural hurdle,” the Washington Post reports.

Schumer said Gorsuch “was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on President Trump and is “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology.”

Democrats Mull Deal to Let Gorsuch Through

Politico: “A group of Senate Democrats is beginning to explore trying to extract concessions from Republicans in return for allowing Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to be confirmed… The lawmakers worry that Gorsuch could be confirmed whether Democrats try to block him or not — and Democrats will be left with nothing to show for it. That would be a bitter pill after the GOP blocked Merrick Garland for nearly a year.”

“The deal Democrats would be most likely to pursue, the sources said, would be to allow confirmation of Gorsuch in exchange for a commitment from Republicans not to kill the filibuster for a subsequent vacancy during President Donald Trump’s term.”

Rick Hasen: “Triggering a fight over the filibuster will gain attention, but Democrats can only do it once. The Gorsuch nomination restores the balance of power on the Court to the position it was in before Justice Scalia’s death.”

Democrats Paralyzed Over Gorsuch

“Democrats can’t seem to land a punch on Neil Gorsuch — and it’s not even clear they want to,” Politico reports.

“President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee has breezed through more than 70 meetings with senators. Opponents who’ve scoured his record have found little to latch onto. And some Democrats are privately beginning to believe that Gorsuch — barring a blunder at his Senate confirmation hearings next week — will clinch the 60 votes he needs to be approved without a filibuster.”

Conservatives Want to Blow Up Senate Rules

Politico: “House Republican leaders narrowly tailored their Obamacare repeal bill to avoid violating Senate rules, but conservatives are pushing back with advice of their own: Tear up the rule-book. A growing number of conservative lawmakers on Thursday urged GOP leaders to push the limits of how much of the health law they can reshape under a powerful procedural maneuver known as budget reconciliation — and to overrule the Senate parliamentarian if she doesn’t decide in their favor.”

“Such a gambit would require the unlikely buy-in of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), a noted institutionalist who earlier this year avoided talk of changing his chamber’s rules to kill the ability to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. If the Senate changes precedent for what can be passed under reconciliation now, a future Senate — whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats — could enact a wide range of legislation with only a simple majority.”

Bonus Quote of the Day

“I’m sorry I did that, if in fact I did that, because I’ve thought for decades now that the idea of a special prosecutor winds up doing more harm than good. If I signed that letter, I was ill-advised.”

— Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), quoted by USA Today, explaining he’s always been opposed to special prosecutors even though he signed a letter during the Obama administration saying that political appointees should not be allowed to investigate their bosses.

Coons Suggests Democrats Could Shut Down Government

Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said that threatening to shut down the government is the “only card” Democrats have in negotiations with the Republican majority, CNN reports.

Said Coons: “I heard very loudly and clearly from the people of Delaware, they don’t want us to do that. That’s our ultimate card, is to threaten to shut down the government when we get to the end of the funding, that’s coming up fairly soon, the end of the continuing resolution. But that’s really the only card we’ve got.”

Graham Says Trump Budget Is ‘Dead On Arrival’

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that President Trump’s first budget was “dead on arrival” and wouldn’t make it through Congress, The Hill reports.

Said Graham: “It’s not going to happen. It would be a disaster.”

New York Times: “Like many presidents before him, President Trump is pushing a bold budget proposal. But for a business executive used to getting his way, he is likely to find, as his predecessors did, that final budgets often bear little resemblance to the originals after being run through the shredder on Capitol Hill.”

We No Longer Have 3 Branches of Government

Mickey Edwards: “Instead of three equal, independent branches, each a check on the others, today’s federal government is, for practical purposes, made up of either two branches or one, depending on how you do the math. The modern presidency has become a giant centrifuge, sucking power from both Congress and the states, making de facto law through regulation and executive order. Yet the growing power of the executive is not merely a case of presidential power lust. For decades, the Supreme Court has consistently held that on most policy questions, foreign as well as domestic, statute trumps fiat. But if Congress subordinates its constitutional duties to political concerns, what then?”

“Presidents have managed to accumulate such a prominent place at the top of what is now increasingly a pyramid rather than a horizontal structure of three connected blocks because for more than a generation, Congress has willingly abandoned both its constitutional responsibilities and its ability to effectively serve as a check on the executive even when it wishes to do so.”

Rubio Says He Won’t Do Town Hall Meetings

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won’t participate in town hall meetings because he says political activists will crash them to create a media spectacle of people who “heckle and scream at me in front of cameras,” Politico reports.

Said Rubio: “They are not town halls anymore. What these groups really want is for me to schedule a public forum, they then organize three, four, five, six hundred liberal activists in the two counties or wherever I am in the state.”

Rowdy Town Halls Are More Organic Than Organized

“The White House and prominent Republicans have largely dismissed the noisy eruption of civic activism at town-hall meetings across the U.S. as the work of professional organizers and paid activists, partly because MoveOn and other liberal groups have offered help,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

“Interviews suggest otherwise. Many participants are first-timers who echo in passion, though not in politics, the people who emerged early in the tea-party movement in 2009, when unhappy voters banded together against what they saw as government overreach by the Obama administration.”

Cotton Faces Angry Town Hall Meeting

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) “faced an angry crowd Wednesday at a town hall in his home state of Arkansas, as constituents demanded answers on everything from Republicans’ plans to repeal Obamacare and build a border wall to funding for PBS,” CNN reports.

“The venue was at capacity — police said it held 2,000 people — and the audience routinely screamed at the senator throughout the event.”