Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 3, 2015

Testy Meeting Among Senate GOP on ‘Nuclear Option’ Deal

A meeting of Senate Republicans on Wednesday grew tense as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told his members he could have gotten a better deal on nominations than the one negotiated by rank-and-file Republicans.

McConnell’s tone, according to multiple sources, implied that he had been kept in the dark about the talks between some in his own ranks and Democrats. However, those same Republicans say they kept McConnell updated throughout their negotiating process.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., got so frustrated with McConnell’s presentation of events, that he called “bullshit” loud enough for the room to hear, nearly a half-dozen sources said. The heated exchange underscored the “buyer’s remorse” among some Republicans, especially leaders, one senior Republican said on background.

Corker’s office did not comment for this story.

Multiple Republican sources said McConnell appeared to be trying to create space between himself and the deal, given that many GOP members were upset by its outcome, especially in the case of Thomas E. Perez, President Barack Obama’s choice to run the Department of Labor. Perez’s nomination narrowly beat a filibuster attempt Wednesday on a 60-40 vote.

When asked directly about whether there was residual frustration with a deal brokered by Corker, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and others with Senate Democrats, most members demurred but gave hints to what had transpired.

“Not really. I think Sen. McConnell was completely informed about what was going on,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who backed McCain’s deal told CQ Roll Call. “This is a good conclusion to a hard problem, as far as I’m concerned. No senator is bound by anything but their conscience.”

Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, said it was galling that Perez would be confirmed because he has ignored a House of Representatives subpoena directing him to turn over documents in connection with his current Department of Justice position.

“How can you confirm somebody like that for a Cabinet-level [post]; that’s crazy,” Risch said.

Asked if that feeling is conference-wide, Risch said he was speaking only for himself, but he added that “I can tell you that there are other people in the conference who feel the same way. You saw the vote.”

“I wasn’t a party to the deal, I haven’t really heard anyone say, ‘I made a deal and this is what the deal consisted of,'” Risch said.

Graham also expressed concern about the subpoena issue, but said that his “inclination is to let the president fill out his team.”

Sources said that the Republicans who went along with the arrangement to clear Obama’s picks with Democrats felt attacked by McConnell and were dumbfounded that he chose to say he was kept in the dark. Other members had been frustrated, too.

As CQ Roll Call reported Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for example, felt like his effort to reform the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was undercut by the deal forged by McCain and others. Portman and others had been holding up the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB in an attempt to get concessions from the Obama administration. When asked whether McCain or Corker were in a position to defend their deal in front of the rest of the caucus, Graham did not choose to characterize it quite that way.

“I don’t know that it was defending the deal. You know, they spoke up as to why we needed the deal. Quite frankly, I feel good about what happened. And senators are not bound by anything I did,” Graham said. “I think that for many of us, that was like — we probably went too far on Cordray. [And] you can’t just not have a National Labor Relations Board. But the president went too far and nominated somebody in December and then made a recess appointment and not allow the Senate to act.

“I really haven’t heard any concerns other than suggestions we could have done better,” Graham continued.

McConnell’s office did not respond for comment.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

Comments (72)

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  1. purpleday

    July 17, 2013
    7:35 p.m.

    GOP caucus essentially told McConnell to stop putting his election ahead of further damaging the party.

  2. michaelgingerly

    July 17, 2013
    11 p.m.

    The Senate GOP needs an enema administered by Tea Party. Flush McCain, Corker, Graham, etc.

    • James Lopure

      July 18, 2013
      9:51 a.m.

      Sure, good idea — and Senators Aiken, O’Donnell, Angle, Mourdock, and Buck can administer it. You do realize that the Dems are in charge of the Senate because of the Tea Party, right?

      • BeverlyNC

        July 18, 2013
        12:37 p.m.

        No they are not since they do not have 60 seats. Without 60 seats, Republicans can do what they have been doing for the past 6 years – filibuster EVERYTHING and let no bill come up for debate much less a vote.

        Mitch McConnell is the most hated Senator in the U.S. for his 412 filibusters – unpredented in our history (normal is 0 or maybe 1) – McConnell is up for re-election and we (more than just Kentucky) should make sure this hate-filled, people destroying bills on jobs, infrastructure, education, healthcare, Social Security, Medicare, Crisis creator on our debt payments, and traitor of veteran aid bills never is heard from again. He does nothing but obstruct and betray the PEOPLE.

        • Layla

          July 19, 2013
          1:24 p.m.

          Beverly, you must be the head of the NC DNC. Both McConnell and Reid are hated. We’re going to do something about that in the next elections. It’s time to flip Congress.

        • BDnSC

          Aug. 1, 2013
          12:31 p.m.

          Yo Bev! the 410 previous record was held by the Dems wasn’t it? But that is not good for your narrative is it?
          As for the bills being held up, it is Reid and company that are responsible for no budget in 4 years. It is Reid and company that blew the money to set up obamacare and never set up the exchanges. Sequester was your buddy Reid and Obama together trying to extort the Republicans.
          Medicare Crisis? That was the Dems and obamacare that took a half a trillion from it to “support Obamacare” all while you lying POSs told the country during the last election that the Republicans were lying! Your “F”ing pathetic!
          You stir crap up and then don’t like the smell so you say someone else dealt it!
          You want something other than obstruction? Try admitting the truth!
          No way anyone should ever negotiate with a liar!

    • Greg Easton

      July 18, 2013
      10:04 a.m.

      PLEASE! Keep running Tea Party candidates! PLEASE! They’re hilarious and can’t win national elections.

      • Rebecca Wittman

        July 18, 2013
        11:45 a.m.

        If I thought there was a Republican with two brain cells to rub together AND that they would listen to anything the smart caucus (Democrats and liberals) had to say, I would ask you to quit explaining to them how much the Tea Party hurts their chances in statewide or national elections. The fewer Republicans of any kind in office, the better for the country and the world. But the Baggers, right out of the 18th century.

        • Layla

          July 19, 2013
          1:22 p.m.

          It’s getting so difficult to tell you apart. If your lips are moving, you’re lying. Neither side is doing anything for the American people. We’ve noticed. Your time is short. November 2014 is not far away.

      • kamrom dechu

        July 20, 2013
        8:48 p.m.

        Aw, go easy on the poor teahadists. They have no idea that they seem to be channeling some alternate, crazy universe.

    • Layla

      July 19, 2013
      1:21 p.m.

      We’re going to give the entire Congress an enema in 2014. We’re a bipartisan organization with more Dems joining everyday.

  3. mrgavel

    July 18, 2013
    6:35 a.m.

    Here’s what Portman is really upset about: Cordray could become a leading candidate to run against him in the 2016 Senate race in Ohio or he could become a leading candidate for Governor in 2018 if Jackboot John Kasich wins re-election. If Portman could have sabtoaged Cordray’s nomination he would have damaged Cordray’s chances to win an election in Ohio.

  4. BeverlyNC

    July 18, 2013
    12:39 p.m.

    McConnell would have done NOTHING as usual since his stated goal since 2008 was to make sure nothing got done in the Senate. He believes in obstruction not solutions – he is up to 412 filibusters – breaking our nation’s history of filibusters by 410. He is traitor of the American People and our national recovery

    • Layla

      July 19, 2013
      1:20 p.m.

      Both sides are traitors to the American people. We haven’t missed your support of the Immigration Bill or the Indefinite Hold Provision in the NDAA. We are watching.

      • kamrom dechu

        July 20, 2013
        8:45 p.m.

        I bet you thought that sounded really cool in your head. You were wrong. <3

  5. Fred Sherman

    July 19, 2013
    8:17 a.m.

    The
    Nuclear Option would be worth fighting for if we didn’t have so many RINOs in
    the senate. The other reason McConnell would fight to save it is: He does not believe the republicans can
    take back the senate. The nuclear option is a double edge sword if they lose it
    the democrats get their way with the 51 vote margin but if the republicans take
    the senate in 2014 the tide will have turned on the demos. We need to get rid of
    McCain and McConnell the demos love them and in the back room where no one can
    see or hear the demos will support them.

    • webcelt

      July 19, 2013
      11:52 a.m.

      Democrats love McConnell? Maybe in Bizzaroworld.

  6. Layla

    July 19, 2013
    1:19 p.m.

    You haven’t heard from the voters on this one. There are going to be many surprises after Nov. 2014.

    • kamrom dechu

      July 20, 2013
      8:42 p.m.

      A president is democratically elected. As such, it is assumed that he has the right to staff his administration with similar people of his choosing, because that’s what we voted him in to do. That’s what the presidency does and how it works.

      So really, if you think that the president appointing people republicans held up for two years despite voters giving their approval when they re-elected Obama is going to win you anything…

      Well, good luck. I suppose its not 100% unlikely…. But its pretty close.

      • BDnSC

        Aug. 1, 2013
        12:33 p.m.

        Funny! That’s not what the dems said when they blocked Bush’s nominees. Does the hypocrisy ever leave a sour taste in your mouth?

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