Future fights over a president’s nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court may become less contentious as top Republican senators consider whether to waive the filibuster for such positions, Politico reported Friday. If enacted, eliminating the filibuster in the Senate for everything except legislation would mark an about-face for Republicans, who were angered when Democrats did away with the blocking tool for executive branch nominations and most judicial appointees when they controlled the Senate in 2013.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who is pushing the plan along with Sens. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mike Lee of Utah, told Politico that the move would make the Senate run how it did before then-President George W. Bush was in office. Under Bush, Democrats used the filibusters to block the Republican president’s judicial appointees.
“What we would like to do is adopt by rule the way the Senate has always operated,” he said. “The history of the Senate has been up-or-down votes, as I call them, at 51.”
The Republican plan may be an indication that the party is optimistic about its chances of winning the presidency and maintaining Senate control in 2016. If the minority party in the Senate is different from the president’s party at that time, it may seek the filibuster to block Supreme Court nominations from reaching the floor.
A dramatic change in the Senate rules may not be imminent, however. The proposal won’t be brought to the Senate floor unless 67 senators endorse it, according to Politico, meaning that the plan would need to have Democratic support. And some Republicans aren’t on board.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Politico that it would be “sheer hypocrisy” for Republican senators to back the plan after they cried foul when Democrats changed the rules. “We said this was outrageous what they did,” he said. “Not only how they did it, but what they did, OK? Some of my Republican colleagues seem to have forgotten that. Some selective amnesia.”