As the Senate Goes Nuclear,* Read This

Inside the Old Senate Chamber

Photo by HBO

I watched Harry Reid go all Tony Soprano on a room of skeptical reporters this morning. They wondered if he was really ready to force a change of the filibuster rules governing non-lifetime appointees. He assured them that he was.

When Reid pondered filibuster reform in January before settling for the usual do-nothing deal, labor didn’t even get a single NLRB board member confirmed as part of the compromise.

“What is Barack Obama supposed to do?” Reid sputtered at CAP. “The NLRB goes out of business on Aug. 1. It’s gone, it’s over with. And they’re using—oh, I’ve heard it, oh, you’re doing this illegally. It’s only happened because of them!”

That’s the message labor wants to hear from Reid. One of the most frequent head-nodders at the CAP speech, a labor strategist, told me that he’d “never seen Reid angrier about this” and clarified that the unions would prefer a “nuclear” solution to another deal.

Reid insists that his rule change would only affect nominations for executive branch jobs that either rotate out or open up at the start of new presidential terms. Ben Jacobs notices a bit of the Constitution that opens the door to a rule change for judicial nominations, too.

Meanwhile, I’m in the Senate, where 97 senators are gathered in the Old Senate Chamber (a short, dramatic walk from the Current Senate Chamber). The only senator who chatted with multiple reporters on the way in was John McCain, who confirmed that the White House had been in touch during today’s brinksmanship, and said he would try to sell the room on his compromise plan to just let there be up-or-down votes on some stalled nominees—or, you know, to allow the other side to suggest some replacements.