White House spokesman Jay Carney gave his strongest argument to date for the need for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to invoke the so-called "nuclear option" -- a way for Democrats to break through Senate gridlock to get President Obama's nominees passed.
With Reid, D-Nevada, upping his threats to change Senate rules to allow Obama's nominees to win approval with just a majority vote, instead of the traditional 60 votes required, Carney accused Republicans going to unprecedented lengths to stymie Obama's executive branch nominees.
"Republicans have needlessly and systematically obstructed our nominees even though they have extraordinary credentials and bipartisan support," Carney told reporters in his daily briefing Monday. "... Republicans have brought Washington gridlock to new heights or new lows -- depending on how you look at it."
Earlier Monday during a speech at the Center for American Progress, Reid said the Senate is an "evolving institution" that is stuck in gridlock and needs reform.
He said Republicans holds and filibusters of Obama's nominees are "unbelievable" and "untoward."
Republicans have threatened to wreak havoc with all Senate business if Reid makes good on his threats to change Senate vote requirements for nominees.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., quickly pushed back, circulated a video of a comments Obama made in 2005 when he was a senator against changing Senate rules to lower the vote threshold for presidential nominees.
"... Everyone in the chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting, the bitterness, and the gridlock will only get worse," Obama said at the time.
Republicans also pointed to statistics from the Congressional Research Service that showed that Obama's nominees to federal appeals courts were confirmed quicker on average than President George W. Bush's first-term nominees. For appeals courts nominees, Bush's choices waited an average of 350.6 days while Obama's were delayed an average of 256.9 days.
Several of Obama's nominees have been delayed for more than 100 days, including Thomas Perez, the nominee for Labor secretary; Gina McCarthy, the nominee for Environmental Protection Agency administrator; and Richard Cordray, the nominee for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director.
"This has become ridiculous," Carney told reporters Monday.
Most of the nominees' qualification are not in dispute, he noted. The only reason Republicans are holding Cordray up is because they don't like the CFPB, not because he's not qualified for the post.
"The agency was created by law, and Republicans ought to explain what they don't like about an agency that's designed to protect consumers from financial fraud, what they don't like about the $425 million that has already been refunded as a result of 2012 CFPB enforcement actions," he said.