Dramatic action in the U.S. Senate. Democrats, in a historic rule change, moved Thursday to strip minority Republicans of the ability to block most judicial and executive branch nominees from the White House. The action came on a nearly party line 52-48 vote, and came as a surprise to UW political scientist David Canon, who noted that Senators have stepped back from the brink in the past.
“They’ve been talking about this for eight years, and every time they’ve come close to doing it they always broker a deal,” Canon said.
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But this time Democrats exasperated by GOP delay on appeals court nominees, moved to change the balance of power by reducing from 60 to 51 the number of votes needed to end the procedural roadblocks. Theoretically that should make the process easier, but Canon issued a caution.
“My fear, going down the road, is that while we’ve had bad gridlock in the past, it could become worse, if the minority party responds to this in the way they’ve threatened to, which is to basically shut down the Senate,” he said.
The change does not apply to Supreme Court nominees – although Republican promise to extend it there if they regain control of the Senate.