Updated 5:04 p.m. | Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed frustration Tuesday with the recent filibusters of three D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals nominees, and said he is "considering looking at the rules" of the Senate and how he might change them, without detailing those efforts.
"I am at the point where we need to do something to allow the government to function. It is incredible," Reid said of whether he's pursuing the "nuclear option" to change the Senate rules and eliminate the procedural filibusters that have been blocking nominees. "I am considering looking at the rules."
When asked whether he has the support of fellow Democrats on the issue or if he's actively whipping votes for such a change, Reid declined to comment, saying only, "Next question."
"I don't mean to be rude. ... We'll see," Reid said when pushed again on whether he might have the votes.
After a failed cloture vote Monday night on judicial nominee Robert L. Wilkins, Democrats began talking openly again about the need to change the Senate rules in order to fill open judicial slots and vacant administration posts they believe have been unfairly blockaded by the GOP.
Democrats discussed the issue at lunch Tuesday, but even if they wanted to change the rules — or to at least threaten a rules change in order to secure another agreement to clear another batch of nominees — it does not appear they have a lot of time this year to do it.
Such a move likely would require a significant PR effort from leaders, in addition to a hard whip of Democrats to get the 51 votes necessary to evoke the nuclear option. Such a move could be dramatic and politically perilous, with several incumbent Democrats being targeted by Republicans in difficult races in 2014.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said the vote count is currently close, but not locked-in.In the event Democrats get the requisite majority, the process could move ahead quickly, even in the coming days.
The proposal currently under discussion would involve a ruling from the presiding officer saying that cloture could be invoked on executive and judicial nominations (except those to the Supreme Court) with a simple majority vote, the aide said.
But Reid was prickly in his exchanges with reporters on the issue of nominations and rules Tuesday — a sign of how frustrated Democrats are becoming with the status quo.
When one reporter began to cite Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on reservations over the nuclear option, Reid interjected.
"I love Carl Levin, OK? He is one of my friends and we're going to miss him so very, very much, but the world isn't like it was 30 years ago. It's a different world here," Reid said of the retiring longtime senator.
Of course, as Niels Lesniewski reported Monday, the issue touches on other issues as well, including abortion rights.