If Senate Republicans vote next week to abolish filibusters for judicial nominations, it will “upset any chance for an energy bill soon” to emerge from the chamber, said a noted Washington, DC journalist and author Wednesday.

“It takes a certain amount of cooperation” between majority Republicans and minority Democrats to get legislation out of the Senate, and that level of harmony is not present in the Senate now, said Ron Elving, senior Washington editor for National Public Radio News and author of the book Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law, during a briefing sponsored by Stanford Washington Research Group.

If Senate Republicans take away the filibuster option for judicial nominations, Democrats will go into the filibuster mode on everything else, including the omnibus energy bill, he said. The energy measure (HR 6) is being marked up by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this week.

It “[will be] extremely difficult for the Senate to conduct business until the Republicans back down” on this issue, Elving said. Senate Democrats have vowed to use procedural tactics to hang up legislation if the Republicans vote to abolish the filibuster, a parliamentary delaying measure, and require a simple majority of 51 votes (rather than 60 votes) to confirm judicial nominees.

“I see them making it extremely frustrating for [Senate Majority Leader Bill] Frist to come to work each day,” Elving said. The Senate essentially will be “useless until this is worked out.” Conceivably, he doesn’t think much will happen in the Senate between now and the Memorial Day recess if warfare between the GOP and Democrats persists.

This is a “slow-motion train wreck” that could potentially come to a crash next Tuesday, he noted. “The best way to have this worked out is to have someone take this out of the hands of the leadership.”

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