Will Senate Dems Use ‘Nuclear Option’ to Confirm Judges?

A senior Senate Democrat is eyeing the “nuclear option” to eliminate filibusters of nominations — this time for circuit court judges.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy says Democrats should bring back the idea of changing the rules with a simple majority if Republicans block nominees to a federal appeals court.

“I think that the rules change will come back on the table if it’s filibustered because it is one thing if you had somebody who is not qualified. These people are extraordinarily well-qualified,” the Vermont Democrat said of three nominees pending to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in an interview that will air Sunday on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last month that his plan to change the Senate’s procedures with a simple majority vote (the “nuclear option”) would have applied only to executive branch nominees, not judges. Reid ultimately struck a deal with Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans to avoid that outcome.

It’s not clear that Reid would have had the votes to push through a simple majority rule for judges, although the No. 3 Senate Democrat, Charles E. Schumer of New York, suggested the possibility of a rules change to fill the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in March.

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