Senate Democrats are on the brink of going "nuclear" to block GOP filibusters of judicial nominees, and the Congressional Black Caucus stands ready to help.
The CBC, made up entirely of House Democrats, will have that chance on Thursday afternoon, when Chairwoman Marcia L. Fudge of Ohio is expected to join with other supporters of changing filibuster rules to hear from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., "his thinking" on lowering the threshold for confirming judicial nominations — according to a memo obtained by CQ Roll Call.
That meeting comes on the heels of a CBC meeting on Wednesday, where members began to plot out how to confirm a whole roster of nominations to high-level executive and judicial branch posts — especially those who are African-American.
The Senate GOP has been voting down advancing those nominations, arguing that the candidates are ill-qualified or that the positions themselves are not necessary. Democrats counter that the "no" votes are aimed at hampering President Barack Obama's authority; CBC members say there's an underlying issue of race.
"There are more than 50 judicial nominations that are being held up by the Senate and certainly a large portion of them are minority people," said Fudge in a brief interview with CQ Roll Call on Wednesday afternoon. "They're women, they're African-Americans, they're Hispanic, they're gay, so it kind of runs the gamut. And so we believe that it's time for us to express our views publicly as to what is going on in the Senate and encourage Senator Reid to take whatever steps are necessary to get these people confirmed."
The CBC is, in particular, still reeling from the blocked confirmation vote of African-American Judge Robert L. Wilkins to sit on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and the filibuster of Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C., also a member of the CBC, to serve as head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.
Although Fudge did not get into specifics of the strategy, she suggested that approach will be two-pronged, with the CBC making "public statements" along with exerting pressure on the Senate.
"We want to make sure this stays on the front of everyone's minds, make sure that until they do something to confirm these people that nobody forgets that these people have been languishing out here, some of them for almost a year or better," Fudge said. "We're gonna do everything in our power to let people know how obstructionist [Senate Republicans] are, how much they disrespect the president of the United States and how they don't even want to comply with the constitution they say they support."
Fudge also suggested that there would be efforts to get other congressional caucuses involved, such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the Asian Pacific American Caucus.