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Reid Pushes to Flip Balance of D.C. Circuit Court, Hints at Another Filibuster Battle

Yucca Mountain is in Nevada, which Reid represents. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Yucca Mountain is in Nevada, which Reid represents. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats are still focused on getting at least one more judge confirmed to the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals — and hinted at more changes to Senate rules unless Republicans stop filibustering “literally everything.”

“People don’t focus much on the D.C. Circuit. It is, some say, more important than even the Supreme Court,” the Nevada Democrat said Friday during a lengthy appearance on Nevada Public Radio.

“We put on three people — I don’t think they deserve to be on any court, but they — we put them on there, and they have been terrible,” Reid said. “They’re the ones that said … the president can’t have recess appointments which we’ve had since this country started. They’ve done a lot of bad things, so we’re focusing very intently on the D.C. Circuit. We need at least one more. There’s three vacancies, we need at least one more and that will switch the majority.”

Three federal appeals courts have found that President Barack Obama’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board ran afoul of the Constitution, citing the definition of “the Recess.”

Reid noted that a number of Republican appointees had been confirmed to the court as part of an agreement to clear up an earlier logjam years ago, an apparent reference to the 2005 “gang of 14” agreement.

A caller on the radio show asked Reid why there should be the ability to filibuster any business in the Senate; in his answer, Reid sought to separate nominations from legislative business. He suggested that further changes to curtail the ability of senators to stall Senate business might be inevitable.

“We’ve made some changes in nominations significantly. We have to be very careful how we handle the legislation,” Reid said. “I think it helps the Senate to get things done if we have a little bit more than a majority. We don’t want the House and the Senate to be exactly the same, but unless the — these characters who are filibustering literally everything, unless they change, I think that that’s where we’re headed.”

Last month, Reid reached a deal with Republicans led by Sen. John McCain of Arizona to avoid using the “nuclear option” for executive branch nominations in exchange for confirmation of several of the president’s executive branch nominees.

“I don’t need all 45 Republicans running to me and saying … ‘here work with us,’ all I need is a few, seven , eight. Remember, we have 54 — 55 we’ll have in October when Cory Booker’s elected out in New Jersey,” Reid said. “Come October, I only need five Republicans. I don’t need a lot. That doesn’t mean Democrats are going to in lockstep do everything that I think is a good idea, but most of them will.”

Reid has publicly assumed that the Newark mayor’s victory in the Senate special election is inevitable.

Reid somewhat telegraphed this summer’s “nuclear option” standoff back in April, also on Nevada Public Radio.

Earlier in the program, Reid said a local union leader was exaggerating concerns about the health care law.

Reid was asked to respond to complaints from D. Taylor, the president of the UNITE Here union, criticizing the effect of the health care law on his membership, which includes culinary workers.

Taylor has blasted the law for leading employers to cut workers back to part-time status and otherwise drop health care.

“I know D., like him, always been a good friend, good supporter. The unions have been good to me. However, he’s exaggerating. We’re happy to work, as the administration has done, to solve problems that exist,” Reid said. “But I would recommend that D. just calm down and stop frightening people because the law’s going forward. He should work with it. I’m working with him and the administration to try to solve some of the issues that he has talked about, but he’s exaggerated them.”