Senate Republicans are asking Democrats to abandon some of President Barack Obama’s nominees to strike a compromise that avoids the nuclear option threatened by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).
The GOP is looking to replicate the Gang of 14 deal that the Democrats negotiated in 2005. Republicans, then in the majority, allowed several of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominations to die in the Senate while securing passage for other nominees that Democrats considered more palatable.
Senate sources tell the Washington Free Beacon that if Democrats are sincere about a compromise to get certain nominees confirmed, they must be willing to withdraw support for the president’s more controversial appointees.
"A compromise would include losing some nominees," the source said. "If Democrats insist on all-or-nothing, they’re setting up an impossible bar to clear."
Republicans have taken issue with three nominees in particular: Consumer Financial Protection Board director Richard Cordray and National Labor Relations Board members Sharon Block and Richard Griffin.
Obama used his recess appointment power to appoint all three in 2012 while the Senate was still in session. Two federal courts have since declared the appointments unconstitutional; Block, Griffin, and Cordray have ignored the court orders, which will go before the Supreme Court in the fall. Reid ended debate on the NLRB nominees on Thursday afternoon.
"The Democrats have known for a long time that these guys were unacceptable," a top Republican Senate aide told the Free Beacon on condition of anonymity. "They could have found suitable replacements and chose not to—it’s a manufactured crisis."
The Senate has approved more than 1,500 executive nominations since Obama took office, while rejecting only four, leading many Republicans to cry foul.
"This is really a sad, sad day for the United States Senate. And if we don’t pull back from the brink here, my friend, the majority leader, is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on Thursday.
The two parties will meet behind closed doors on Monday night to try and hammer out a compromise to avoid a rules change that would allow Democrats to pass Obama’s nominees with a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold.
Republicans spent the weekend attempting to corral Democratic swing votes, while Reid hardened his position.
Reid, who called the nuclear option "a complete abuse of power" that was "as far as you could get from a Constitutional option" when he was minority leader in 2005, reiterated his support for the rules change at the Center for American Progress Action Fund on Monday morning.
"We have a situation where Republicans have created gridlock," he said. "The Senate is a unique institution. It was created that way by the Founding Fathers. Traditions are important, but also is an evolving institution."
Conservative groups are launching last-minute campaigns to alert the public to the consequences of the nuclear option.
The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), a group dedicated to protecting the secret ballot in union elections, on Sunday launched DontNukeTheSenate.com. The site is backed by a six-figure ad buy that highlights the potential consequences of ramming through nominations and legislation with bare-majority support.
"Our coalition has always hesitated to get involved in Senate rules, but the impact is so vast, so precedent setting that we feel obligated to get involved," CDW chairman Geoffrey Burr said. "These are highly, highly controversial nominees and everything about this seems hasty."
The ads are targeting vulnerable Democrats in swing states, airing in North Carolina, West Virginia, Alaska, Indiana, Louisiana, and Maine. The CDW, which represents more than 600 trade associations, said getting rid of the filibuster will change the country in many ways beyond simple Beltway politics.
"Senate rules tend to be seen as insider baseball, but people understand what the filibuster is," he said. "When people see that the elimination of the filibuster can be used to push through highly partisan nominees that can have major impacts on jobs and the economy, this becomes an election issue."
The Senate is expected to vote on the rule changes on Tuesday.