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The Kentucky Republican pointed to votes this year, most of them overwhelming, to confirm the secretaries of Energy, the Interior, Treasury and State and the director of the Office of Management and Budget.
McConnell also sought unanimous consent to hold a Thursday afternoon confirmation vote on Sri Srinivasan to join the D.C. Circuit.
“I don’t know what the majority leader thinks advise and consent means,” McConnell said. “Listening to him it means, sit down, shut up, don’t ask any questions, and confirm immediately. I don’t think that is what the founding fathers had in mind.”
McConnell also charged that Reid is working behind the scenes to find the 51 votes to pursue the nuclear option on nominations.
“He’s been meeting with his members trying to get 51 votes to blow up the Senate,” McConnell said. “What I fear is that the majority leader is working his way toward breaking his word to the Senate and the American people, and blowing up this institution and making it extremely difficult for us to operate on the collegial basis that we have operated on for over 200 years.
“We need to think over how we conduct ourselves in this body,” McConnell continued. “The majority leader has a very important position. It is not only to lead the party of the majority; it is also to protect the institution. What I hear lacking in that speech is any interest whatsoever in protecting the traditions of this institution.”
McConnell said that proceeding down this path could threaten progress on bipartisan legislation, including an immigration overhaul, which is one of the president’s top priorities.
“We’ve got important issues coming down the pike,” McConnell continued. “What I hear here is, the majority leader does not want to keep his word to the Senate or to the American people, and we’ll keep that into consideration as we move forward.”
John McCain, R-Ariz., later on the Senate floor said he was concerned that opposition from some Republicans to going to conference on the budget resolution could prompt Democrats to seek to use the nuclear option.
“If we continue to block things like this and block what is the regular order, then the majority will be tempted to change the rules of the Senate,” McCain said. “That would be the most disastrous outcome that I could ever imagine.”
A group of Republicans, including Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, want binding instructions on the budget conferees so they cannot raise the debt ceiling as part of the budget resolution.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who helped head off the rules showdown in January, said he still opposes using the nuclear option to change the Senate rules.
“The question is not whether the rule is changed,” he said. “The issue is whether or not the rule allowing debate on that question, which requires two-thirds to end the debate, is changed with the so-called nuclear option. If you do a good thing in a way which is explosive you’re going end up with more gridlock here, not less.”
Levin said he did not know whether fewer senators now agree with him since the issue was discussed at the beginning of the year.