Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Last Call For Harry's Big Exit

As you're probably aware, Senate minority leader Harry Reid is hanging up his boxing gloves this year as Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto battle it out over his Nevada seat.  Right now it's looking pretty good for Cortez Masto who has taken a slim lead for the first time in state polling, indeed Cook Political Report's latest Senate forecast has the Democrats picking up five to seven seats and regaining control of the Senate.

Early voting is underway in 27 states, so Republicans don’t really have much time to turn things around, and Trump won’t be any help, especially his campaign doesn’t really have a ground game to speak of. The GOP’s only hope is to start running a checks-and-balances message, or more blatantly, a don’t-give-Clinton-a-blank-check message to motivate their base, particularly what one strategist called “casual Republicans,” to the polls. We are starting to see that message in some red and purple states as candidates work to tie Democratic candidate to Clinton.

History shows that races in the Toss Up column never split down the middle; one party tends to win the lion’s share of them. Since 1998, no party has won less than 67 percent of the seats in Toss Up. While the 2016 election has broken every political science rule and trend, we’d be surprised if this becomes one of them.

As such, we are increasing the range of expected Democratic pick ups to five to seven seats. This means that we feel that the prospect that Democrats will have at least 51 seats is greater than the odds of a tied Senate, or of Republicans somehow holding their majority.

So in a future Clinton administration with the Democrats poised to have 51 to 53 Senate seats, that still means that Republicans can go back to filibustering everything like they did in 2012 and blame the Dems to great effect in 2014 and win the Senate right back in two years. And this time around, it would mean an almost guaranteed block on any Clinton nomination to the Supreme Court.

But maybe Harry Reid has the solution.

The outgoing Democratic leader told Talking Points Memo that he's paved the way for what would be a historic change of the Senate's rules, allowing Supreme Court nominees to bypass a 60-vote procedural requirement and be approved by a simple majority. 
"I really do believe that I have set the Senate so when I leave, we’re going to be able to get judges done with a majority," he said. "It’s clear to me that if the Republicans try to filibuster another circuit court judge, but especially a Supreme Court justice, I’ve told 'em how and I’ve done it, not just talking about it. I did it in changing the rules of the Senate. It’ll have to be done again."

Reid's comments come as Senate Republicans have refused to give Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, a hearing or a vote for more than eight months. They argue that the vacancy from Justice Antonin Scalia's death should be filled by the president's successor.

Reid, who has previously floated changing the rules in 2017, added to TPM that if Republicans "mess with the Supreme Court, it'll be changed just like that in my opinion. So I’ve set that up. I feel very comfortable with that.”

Not just a threat but a promise.  We'll see how the future plays out, but I'm hoping the Dems are ready to move to nuke the filibuster.

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