Republicans and Democrats have wrapped up more than three hours of extraordinary closed-door talks over the fate of several of President Barack Obama's stalled nominations without a resolution. Instead, senators emerging from the meeting say the Republican and Democratic leadership will continue the discussions into the evening.
"A clear bipartisan majority in the meeting believed the Leaders ought to find a solution. And discussions will continue," said Don Stewart, a spokesperson for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Votes on nominees are scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Facing a backlog of presidential nominations, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been pushing for a rules change in the Senate to get the nominations past Republican barricades, specifically via filibuster reform.
Though Reid earlier Monday brushed off the change as "minor" and "no big deal," using the so-called "nuclear option" to change the rules - a procedural maneuver that would force a rules change with a simple 51-vote majority - was a big enough deal to warrant an all-Senate meeting in the Old Senate Chamber Monday evening to talk it over. The last bipartisan meeting of the full Senate in the Old Senate Chamber was in 2007 for a meet-and-greet at the start of the 110th Congress; before that, the last bipartisan meeting in the chamber was on January 8, 1999, for both parties to discuss the framework of the Clinton impeachment trial.
Reid is specifically calling on Republicans to drop opposition to seven of President Obama's cabinet nominees: Richard Cordray, to lead the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection; Richard Griffin, Jr., to serve on the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB); Sharon Block, to serve on the NRLB; Mark Pearce, to serve on the NRLB; Regina McCarthy, to serve as EPA Administrator; Thomas Perez, to serve as Secretary of the Department of Labor; and Fred Hochberg, to serve as president of the Export-Import Bank.
The Senate leader has scheduled showdown procedural votes for Tuesday on all seven nominations. He said Monday that if Republicans don't let all seven proceed, he'll invoke the "nuclear option" and change the rules so that it would take just 51 votes to approve an executive branch nominee.
"The status quo won't work," Reid said Monday morning. Before Mr. Obama's tenure, 20 executive nominees had been filibustered, he said; by comparison, 16 of Mr. Obama's nominees have faced a filibuster. "What they have done is just really unbelievable," he said of Republicans.
Reid's proposed would only affect executive branch nominees - not judicial nominees or legislation. Though Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was working with both sides Monday to forge a compromise on expediting nomination confirmations, the majority leader's Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has suggested the kind of rules change Reid is proposing could effectively destroy the Senate.
"No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate," McConnell said Friday. "Well, if this majority leader caves to the fringes and let's this happen, I'm afraid that's exactly what they'll write... I just hope the majority leader thinks about his legacy, the future of his party, and - most importantly - the future of our country before he acts."