White House weighs nuclear option for judicial picks

White House weighs nuclear option for judicial picks

Pressure is continuing to mount in President Barack Obama’s base — and within his own White House — to push for a new nuclear option for judicial nominees.

The clock is ticking: The Senate’s less likely to vote on any nominees as the November election draws nearer, and a possible Republican takeover of the Senate is looming large.

But White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler and others in the administration are currently caught between their own exasperation and their wariness about a direct challenge to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — the one and only man who could peel away the next layer of Senate control over nominations.

Republican senators, White House aides argue, have developed what amounts to a silent filibuster, using the “blue slip” tradition that gives home state senators signoff power for in-state nominees. Given the number and length of delays, they say trying to collaborate on nominations has become an unbearable burden, the blue slip an outdated courtesy — there are 53 pending judicial nominees, and only six of the 37 vacancies without a pending nominee are in states with two Democratic senators.

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