Going nuclear

In the arcane rules of the US Senate, the nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the body to override a rule or precedent by a majority vote. In simple terms, it typically takes 60 votes to confirm a nominee for the Supreme Court. With the nuclear option, it would only take 51.

Democrats say they have 42 senators prepared to vote against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, enough to block his appointment under existing rules. But Republicans are likely to invoke the nuclear option, using their majority control of the body to put Gorsuch on the court. The political dance was set in motion on Monday when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along straight party lines to send Gorsuch’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

There is a lot of talk among senators about Gorsuch’s vague answers to their questions and his conservative philosophy (none of which mattered when he was unanimously confirmed to the Appeals Court), but the real answer why they are refusing to accept the inevitable is that the Senate is abandoning consensus and compromise in favor of all-out partisan warfare. It’s a game elementary school children often play. “He started it,” they say, pointing to the Republicans’ refusal to even take up Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia on the high court.

The Democrats are emboldened by a political base that is uninterested in compromise. And they are also trying to think ahead to the next vacancy on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch would fill the seat vacated by Scalia, the conservative jurist who died in February 2016. The next vacancy is likely to be one of the liberals on the court, where the stakes would even be higher. Some analysts say the Democrats should hold their fire for that fight, but others say that fight may never materialize.

A Herald editorial says Democrats will come to regret the move to block Gorsuch’s nomination. The Globe’s conservative columnist, Eric Fehrnstrom, holds much the same view. But no matter. The Republicans are going to do what they are going to do and so are the Democrats. That’s the way it goes these days in Washington.



The Baker administration disputes an audit that found $193 million in questionable payments at MassHealth. (State House News)

It appears increasingly likely that the Legislature will move to strip Treasurer Deb Goldberg of oversight over the state’s new recreational marijuana industry and establish a commission with members appointed by several state officials. (Boston Globe) Secretary of State William Galvin’s office proposes legislation clarifying and making it legal for cities and towns to take action to limit marijuana sales or ban them all together. The proposed legislation does not do away with the requirement that towns must vote through referendum on barring or limiting marijuana sales. (State House News)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson, who called for the arrest of elected leaders of sanctuary cities, and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who called Hodgson a “jack-booted thug,” will square off at a forum on immigration at UMass Law School in Dartmouth Thursday. (State House News Service)


A conflict has emerged in the wake of Sunday’s shooting of a 6-year-old boy in Roxbury, with the child’s mother denying police reports that the boy’s father was the intended target (police say he is now not cooperating with investigators). She told the Herald Mayor Marty Walsh is “a liar.” City Councilor Tito Jackson, who is challenging Walsh this fall, said it is “unacceptable” to blame the family for not coming forward. (Boston Herald)

Falmouth Town Meeting members approved a new bylaw allowing accessory apartments to be added to single-family homes in an effort to create more affordable housing to entice younger people to stay in town and older residents to “age in place.” (Cape Cod Times)

Leaders of Boston’s unionized municipal employees are pushing to have those workers receive the same paid parental leave benefit that the city granted two years ago to non-unionized employees. (Boston Globe)


White House officials make a new pitch to conservative Republicans to win support for the repeal and replacement of Obamacare. (Time) Among the concessions the White House is offering in talks with the House’s ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus could include provisions to allow states to abandon mandates for minimum benefits coverage and eliminate the mandate for coverage of pre-existing conditions. (New York Times)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency agrees to suggestions made by the city of Salem that will result in lower flood insurance premiums for about 600 homeowners. (Salem News)


Republican State Rep. Geoff Diehl is establishing a federal campaign account as he moves closer to a launching a 2018 challenge to US Sen. Elizabeth Warren. (Boston Herald)

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is stocking his reelection campaign staff with former top operatives from the Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton campaigns. (Boston Globe)

Three challengers prepare to take on Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. (Salem News)


Some black faculty members at the University of Massachusetts Boston say Chancellor Keith Motley is being scapegoated for financial problems at the campus. (Boston Globe)

Individual gifts to colleges and universities of $10 million or more continued to surge in the post-recession recovery, topping $6 billion for the first time last year though officials are worried about a drop in overall giving from general fundraising campaigns. (Chronicle of Philanthropy)


Neighborhood Health Plan, the Partners HealthCare-owned insurance company, is shifting its focus to enroll more commercial subscribers after sustaining big losses with its focus on the state Medicaid population. (Boston Globe)


The MBTA is backing off paratransit cuts and is instead pitching cheaper ways to provide the same level of service. State officials also hint they will tap a legislative appropriation to balance the fiscal 2018 budget. (CommonWealth)

Defects in the MBTA’s newer commuter rail locomotives gets the agency’s attention as the chief operating officer is charged with finding a solution to the problem that causes minimal disruption to service. (CommonWealth)

The Orange Line prototype car pulls into Boston’s City Hall plaza for a three-day public viewing. (CommonWealth)

Boston regulators are blocking a smartphone app that would let taxi customers pay for rides electronically because it processes payments via PayPal and other services rather than the approved credit card processors the city uses. (Sounds to us like something City Hall’s vaunted New Urban Mechanics could fix.)  (Boston Globe)


Massachusetts emissions continue to decline even as the economy keeps growing. (State House News)

Rockport boosts by $90 the flat fee required to dispose of trash at the town’s transfer station. (Gloucester Times) A Westport trash hauler is charged with defrauding a Fall River landfill of $473,000 in disposal fees. (MassLive)

A new break in Chatham’s South Beach caused by winter storm-driven waves could pose a hazard to commercial fishing boats that use the passage to the Atlantic and force them to dock elsewhere, though the breach could be good news for recreational boaters. (Cape Cod Times)


Mashpee Wampanoag officials hailed a Supreme Court decision not to intervene in a case involving a Washington state tribe as a positive sign in its own attempts to build a casino in Taunton but opponents who have filed suit to stop the Massachusetts casino say the cases are not similar. (Cape Cod Times)


The Supreme Judicial Court may rule in a case being heard today on whether local law enforcement agencies can hold someone at the request of federal immigration officials. (Boston Globe)

Suffolk County Register of Probate Felix Arroyo spoke out for the first time since being suspended by the Trial Court, saying the office he inherited was rife with cronyism and mismanagement. (Boston Globe)


WGBH prepares to embed another reporter in the community, this time in the Fields Corner section of Dorchester. (Current)

Newspapers lost half their employees between 2001 and 2016. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Two major advertisers — Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai — pulled their advertising from Bill O’Reilly’s show on Fox News in the wake of a New York Times story detailing multiple claims of sexual harassment and millions in settlements by the conservative host. The move comes as a new suit has been filed against the network by a current contributor who claims she has faced retaliation for rebuffing the advances of ousted CEO Roger Ailes. (Reuters)