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D.C. Notebook: Hatch goes 'nuclear' over Democrats' plans

Published July 14, 2013 5:42 pm

Politics • Hatch warns of a 'Pandora's Box' scenario that could be devastating to Senate.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's time to tell the schoolchildren to duck under their desks and cover their heads. The Senate may go nuclear and quite frankly, Sen. Orrin Hatch already has.

Utah's senior senator is furious that Democrats may use the "nuclear option," a scary term that really means senators may allow rule changes by a simple majority instead of the current standard of 67 votes.

The result would be to make it far easier to change Senate rules so the president can win Senate confirmation for his nonjudicial appointees, some of whom the Republicans have persistently blocked.

The move, which could take place this week, isn't expected to have any impact on the GOP minority's ability to delay action on court nominees or legislation.

Hatch stood before TV cameras last week and vowed "to fight to my death" for the rights of the Senate minority, which at this time is the 46 Republican members. He also called the proposed rule change "a very destructive thing" and the opening of a "Pandora's box."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid argues the move is needed because the GOP has vowed to oppose any nominee to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which the GOP hopes to strangle by denying it a fully empowered leader.

"It is a disturbing trend when Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees even when they have no objection to the qualifications of the nominee," Reid said last week. "Instead, they are blocking qualified nominees to circumvent the legislative process, force wholesale changes to laws or restructure entire executive branch departments."

'Maybe, yes' • Utah's Republican House members aren't the most conservative or the most loyal to their leader. But they fall closest to backing House Speaker John Boehner than voting against him.

The Washington Post recently reviewed six key votes this year to determine who fit into the different factions of the House GOP caucus. All three of Utah's Republicans — Rob Bishop, Jason Chaffetz and Chris Stewart — fell into the "maybe, yes" category, meaning they backed Boehner four votes out of six. The Post found that generally means they can be counted on to side with the speaker unless a specific issue back home conflicts with that vote.

Next door, please • Some entrances of the Capitol complex were shuttered or changed to restrict access after sequestration cuts came into effect. And there's one in particular that has Bishop rolling his eyes.

The entrance to the Cannon Office Building closest to Bishop's office has been limited to staff only, meaning his interns, for some reason, can't enter. They have to walk around the block and go through a public entrance.

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.






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