Democrats step closer to 'nuclear option' in filibuster fight
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
July 11th, 2013
07:23 PM ET
5 years ago

Democrats step closer to 'nuclear option' in filibuster fight

Washington (CNN) - Democrats took steps towards dramatically limiting Senate filibusters Thursday over the angry objections of Republicans who warned the move would destroy bipartisan cooperation in the chamber.

For months, Democrats, in the majority, have threatened to use the so-called "nuclear option" to jam through rules changes for filibusters, and a showdown is now likely early next week.

"The vast majority of my Democratic caucus wanted to move forward and change the rules," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid following a closed meeting in which Democratic leaders advocated banning filibusters of executive branch appointments, which they argue Republicans have abused.

Democratic leaders said they have votes to force the change using a parliamentary tactic that Republicans complain violates Senate rules.

"These are dark days in the history of the Senate," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said during an unusually pointed and personal exchange with Reid on the Senate floor.

"All we want is the for president of the United States, whoever that might be, Democrat or Republican, to have the team he wanted as contemplated in that document called the Constitution of the United States. That's not asking too much," Reid responded.

Reid set up a series of procedural votes beginning Tuesday on two cabinet members and five appointees to agency posts that Republicans have stalled for months. Reid suggested that if Republicans try to block votes on the nominees, he will move to change the Senate rules with the support of just 51 senators instead of the 67 supermajority typically required.

Republicans argue they have cleared nearly all the president's executive branch picks and that the Democrats are playing politics and overstating the problem.

In a late concession, which Reid rejected, McConnell said his party would immediately allow confirmation votes on all but three of the nominees. Those three - two to the National Labor Relations Board and one to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - were tainted in the minds of Republicans because they originally had been nominated as "recess appointments" by Obama - even though senators said they were in session.

Republicans remained steadfast against confirming them until the Supreme Court decides if their recess appointments were constitutional, something the court is considering.

Republicans warned Democrats were on a slippery slope.

"Make no mistake about it. We're talking about executive nominations today, but if they do this, it blows the door wide open," said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota. "They will have established a precedent and then it will just be a matter to time before they use it for judicial nominations and legislation as well. There's going to come a time here in the United States Senate when they're no longer in the majority and it's going to be very, very difficult to turn back the hands of time."

After rank and file Republicans pleaded with Reid to step back from his threat, Reid agreed to their request to hold a special meeting of all senators Monday night to discuss the issue. But there was little evidence the meeting would make much of a difference. Reid and McConnell even argued about when it was scheduled.

Filed under: Senate • Senate Democrats • Senate Republicans
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. sonkarlay

    This should have been in place since january because obama is reelected and republican wanted him to be one term president and they fail so they hate to see a black man in the white house that's why they always win down south and u know what that means

    July 11, 2013 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    Well, Thune, it doesn't precisely say in the Constitution that 60, and not 51, votes constitutes a majority. So, yeah, if your team takes back the Senate someday, then my team will have to live with that. C'est la vie, brah!

    July 11, 2013 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  3. Get Real

    Ahh yes, the hypocrisy, one side does it when they think THEY are right, then when the other side does it when THEY think they are right.

    July 11, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  4. Donkey Party

    Considering the GOP domestic terrorists should be shot for treason, this seems like much ado over nothing.

    July 11, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  5. LoboLoco

    The gop needs to move our presidents nominees come up for a vote like his predecessor had the option of doing.

    July 11, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  6. Yo

    The whole US political system is totally broken. This is just one more piece of evidence for it. All states get 2 people in the Senate, so states with 1 million people have the same power than states with 30 million people. How is that democratic ?!? And even then, they need 60 votes in the senate instead of 50, because the republicans block everything with filibusters.

    How on earth can American fool themselves that this system is a good thing ?!?

    July 11, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  7. Debbie

    Harry doesn't have the guts. The filibuster is a mockery of our fore-fathers design of a bicameral Congress. The House to be based upon population and the Senate with each state receiving 2 votes. The VP is the tie breaker. The filibuster is used to force every issue to require 60 votes which is not in line with what the Constitution states or what our fore-fathers intended. Regardless, Harry doesn't have the guts.

    July 11, 2013 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  8. Dick Smegma

    Totally corrupt.
    No one with two brain cells would follow Reid, "Little Dick" Durbin, or Shumer to the bathroom.

    July 11, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  9. max

    its been a long time coming that Mitch McConnell have forced Reid and the Democrats" hands in bringing an end to the Republicans' unprecedented fillibustering – it is nuclear indeed – but which party abused the fillibuster in the first place?

    July 11, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  10. The Contentious Otter

    The Republican threat is empty. The GOP is headed for Demographic oblivion. The GOP can gerrymander voting districts to keep control of the House but they can't gerrymander entire states. Reid should go ahead and do what he has to do, because as soon as he backs off from these parliamentary changes the Republicans will double down on filibustering and intransigence and claim it's Reid's fault for even considering doing away with the filibuster.

    July 11, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. dixie

    If you don't like the rules change them for yourself ONLY!!! This seems to be Washington's way with both parties. What ever happened to talking things through and compromise on an issue? Sure wish there was one thing these people could agree on.

    July 11, 2013 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  12. Thomas A. Hawk

    I think the filibusters are out of control. I understand the purpose but I think the filubustering Senator should have to keep talking. I don't like the "call it in" type of filibuster.

    July 11, 2013 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  13. John

    Let them do it. In 4-5 years when the house swings and it is then a Republican majority the dems will be crying about how unfair their rule is.

    July 11, 2013 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. the sparrow king

    the filibuster was desighned only to give any senator all the time they may need to get their point across prior to any vote. the gop dosnt use it for that reason. votes on the hill by law have time limits so all subject matters get equal attention. essentialy there useing the filib to wait out the clock and hence prevent any vote at all. in effect preventing democracey from happening. the three longest filibusters in history were all done by gops all in the last six years. look it up. does anyone realy think it takes 19 hrs to make a point about a bill they dont like? no? then obviously there doing it to be politicaly machiavellian. although i doubt any in the gop are intellgent enough to even know that word

    July 11, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  15. rs

    Nuke 'em Reid, do it. The GOP is Hell-bent on not doing anything for Americans. Shoot, the idiots are trying to bring back birtherism again.

    July 11, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  16. CaliforniaAC

    Go for it. Bi-partisanship is dead; he who has the numbers GOP or DEMs will do the people's will as per the majority in the house and senate.

    July 11, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  17. Ed1

    Again they do not follow their own rules.

    July 11, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. Robert

    Reid is a left wing Marxist communist Facist far left Stahlinist who needs to be deported to North Korea...Just looking at this left wing facist makes me want to throw up..

    July 11, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    "Republicans who warned the move would destroy bipartisan cooperation in the chamber."
    What bipartisan cooperation? Mitch McConnell filibustered his own proposal! Republicans block every appointment and even prevent debate on critical initiatives. They have horribly abused the rule with 3x the previous record number of filibusters. Nuke them now!

    July 11, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  20. Bob

    This is exactly the sort of thing the Republicans did in the Texas Senate so they could force their odious anti-abortion bill through. What's good for the goose is good for the gander, you bunch of obstructionists in the US Senate.

    July 11, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  21. johnp40

    Obama is the "Great Divider" of the once-United States.

    July 11, 2013 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  22. pjoe

    I remember when Harry Reid use to be a big shot in Washington. That was when the debt exploded and destroyed our future.

    July 11, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  23. chuck

    As long as the Republicans can block and obstruct they are content. But now they claim this act will destroy bipartisanship. They have not practiced that for 5 years. They are not the do nothing Congress. The Republicans are the Obstructive Congress. I hope Sen.Reid does what is needed to get the job done.

    July 11, 2013 10:35 pm at 10:35 pm |
  24. kj

    Nuclear option is the way to go! Bring back the way our forefathers envisioned our political system to work..a majority!!!!

    July 11, 2013 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  25. Rich Parks

    I am NOT in favor of the Senate filibuster and wish Senate rules didn’t allow it in the case of executive appointments. I do believe the Senate majority has been painted into a corner with the DC court ruling against the President’s recess appointments. A further judgment against all the decisions these now illegal recess appointments made could overturn every decision these appointments voted upon; As such Senator Reid now has little choice but to legitimate these appointments. There are several ways to deal with a majority in power. Delay, De-fund, Make sure there is no head appointed to the threatening agency.

    July 11, 2013 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
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