Sen. John McCain warned his Republican colleagues that blocking President Barack Obama's nominees could come back to haunt them if the GOP takes control of the Senate and the White House next year.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has long been known to hold nominations hostage — she delayed Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew's confirmation for a month in an attempt get the administration's attention on an unrelated issue — but she said the GOP has taken it to an extreme. She called some of the GOP Members "mad scientists" for dreaming up new methods of obstruction.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said she believes that Republicans have sown ill will.
"They have created a record for themselves. 'We won't let the president get the appointments he needs. We won't let the president fill the appellate circuit court bench. We are going to put holds on everything; hold hostage various things we don't like by putting a hold on an appointee.' When I came here that was never done," she said. "When I came here there were very few amendments on appropriations bills. Now you see people putting 60 or 70 amendments on a bill, and they know they are going to go down. It's kind of a show."
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Republicans take dilatory actions when they are left no other alternatives. He pointed to a recent move by Democrats to stop Republicans from employing a little-used motion that would allow the GOP to offer amendments after debate has been limited.
"What Reid did ... in terms of changing that precedent is something that might come back to bite them if they are ever in the minority again," Thune said.
Thune charged that Democratic leaders have sought to protect their Members from casting politically difficult votes, including on a budget resolution. He said the move has resulted in fewer opportunities for Republicans to have a say in crafting legislation.
"If they don't like the amendments we offer, [Reid] fills the tree, or says, 'You can have this many amendments, but I get to pick them,'" Thune said. "I don't think that is going to work around here. My view is that they could bear the brunt of some of the tactics that they have employed if they are ever in the minority, and we are back in the majority."
On judicial nominations, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has repeatedly come to the floor to defend against charges of Republican obstructionism.
Two weeks ago, Grassley said Obama's circuit court nominees are being confirmed faster than President George W. Bush's were.
"I continue to be amazed and disappointed by the continuing allegations that Senate Republicans are delaying, obstructing or otherwise blocking judicial nominations," Grassley said.
He objected to Democratic charges that Republicans are requiring 60 votes on everything, including judges, noting that votes on only two judges this year have been subject to cloture votes. Grassley has also said that the Senate is working through a backlog of judicial emergencies created, in part, because the White House had been slow to nominate judges to fill vacancies.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said McCain's warning came amid other signs of discontent in the GOP ranks, citing Sen. Lamar Alexander's (Tenn.) decision to quit his No. 3 leadership post and the 11 Republicans who defied leadership's wishes and voted with Democrats to cut off debate on a China currency manipulation bill.