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Leahy, as Judiciary chairman and a long-serving Member, adds weight to the junior Senators’ mission, but other senior Senators urge caution. Retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has advised against diminishing the role of the filibuster in the chamber, charging that it is a useful tool for the minority party.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said the same and further added that Democrats should focus more on economic policy than parochial Senate procedure. “I think all these other things are interesting, but not until we’ve done jobs, jobs, jobs,” Nelson said.
The junior class is pressing ahead, offering an even broader list of rules changes for the chamber to consider. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has led a revolt against secret holds and is pressing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring her bill up for a vote before the end of the year.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said the group wants to see “accelerated votes” on sub-Cabinet and district court nominees. The issue of stalled nominations has aggravated the Democratic Conference all year, and Senators such as Whitehouse charge that such delays waste floor time and deny an administration key advisers and policy experts.
Members will meet again Thursday for a caucus meeting, in which the agenda for the lame-duck session and next year will be discussed. Rules changes are expected to come up, but an agreement on any plan is unlikely.
“Everyone is getting tired and heading toward decision-making, but they’re not there yet,” a Democratic aide said.