Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the possibility Tuesday of another rules change to curtail filibusters, saying he is increasingly frustrated that Republicans are sticking to the letter of the rules and delaying action on dozens of President Obama’s nominations.
In the past, many of those nominees would have been approved in handshake deals, but after Mr. Reid first changed the filibuster last year, using the “nuclear option” to sideline Republicans, the chamber has been in a sort of legislative cold war.
Mr. Reid is able to eventually win any nominations his party wants, but Senate Republicans make him use every minute allotted under the rules, which often means having to wait days longer than he wanted.
The Nevada Democrat on Tuesday said Republicans were “pouting” and that he is considering another change.
“I don’t plan on changing the rules today, again, but how much longer can we put up with this?” he said as he opened the chamber.
Hours later, pressed by reporters, Mr. Reid said he won’t make a change now, “but ‘now’ is a relative term.”
Last year’s rules change proved to be deeply divisive but also incredibly successful for Mr. Reid. Under the new rules, it takes just a majority vote to end a filibuster on most nominees, and Mr. Reid has used that to push through several judges and other nominees that otherwise would have been blocked by Republican filibusters.
Republicans are bristling at the new filibuster rules and the way Mr. Reid imposed them — using a parliamentary tactic to change the rules with only Democratic support rather than the usual bipartisan, two-thirds vote most Senate rule changes require.
“Well, it was a bad idea the first time, and it’s a bad idea this time,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the chamber.
Republicans accuse Mr. Reid of running the Senate as a tyrant and single-handedly shutting down debate for Democrats and Republicans.
On Tuesday, Mr. Reid said he has no regrets about using parliamentary tools to block debate.
“If that makes me powerful, that’s too bad, because the only reason that we’re doing this is because for 51/2 years, everything that this president’s tried to do, they’ve stepped in the way,” he said.
Mr. Reid may be taking his lead on changing the rules from President Obama, who prodded the Senate last week. Speaking to donors at a Democratic fundraiser, Mr. Obama said lawmakers need to change “how a filibuster works.”
Mr. Reid’s immediate reaction at the time was to question the president. “Does he know we already did that?” the Senate leader asked.
Mr. Reid said this week that he has grown impatient with Republican delays on approving executive branch positions. He said Republicans were filibustering nominees to serve as U.S. attorneys in New Mexico, Louisiana and Connecticut.
Republicans called the charges nonsense.
“There hasn’t been a single ‘filibuster’ of a U.S. attorney this Congress,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican. “He hasn’t filed cloture on any of them because they all clear. Even the ones he mentioned on the floor today had already cleared our side.”
Even Mr. Reid has found fault with some of Mr. Obama’s picks.
He said he will oppose Judge Michael Boggs, who sits on a state appeals court in Georgia and whom Mr. Obama has tapped for a federal judgeship. Democrats said that as a legislator, Judge Boggs voted for pro-life measures, opposed same-sex marriage and voted to preserve the state flag that included a Confederate emblem.
“I do not support him,” Mr. Reid told reporters. Still to be seen is whether, despite his opposition, Mr. Reid will allow a floor vote — a vote that could prove embarrassing to Mr. Obama no matter which way it goes.
Mr. Reid also has faced questions within his own caucus over David J. Barron, a Harvard Law School professor who, when he served in the Obama Justice Department, wrote some of the legal reasoning justifying the use of drones to kill terrorism suspects who are U.S. citizens.
Mr. Reid said the memo situation was “just some misunderstanding,” and he thought most Democrats would approve the Barron nomination, scheduled for a floor vote Wednesday.
Some of the sting of the memos was reduced late Tuesday when the Justice Department signaled that it would release the memos in response to a court challenge by The New York Times.
Republicans are still likely to oppose Mr. Barron, whom Mr. Obama tapped to sit on the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, because they see him as a judicial activist.
“I don’t believe that I’ve seen a nominee who has been more candid about his or her desire to use the courts as an instrument of political ideology than this professor. This nominee’s views are fundamentally incompatible with the limited constitutional role of the federal courts,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.