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. HenryB

    About time. There are filibusters and then there are FILIBUSTERS. The Republicans are the latter.

    July 11, 2013 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    It's about time Democrats started doing this.

    July 11, 2013 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  3. Ron L

    I do not understand why this is called a "NUCLEAR OPTION". I get so tired of how so many people talk about the superior intelligence of the founding fathers and then went and changed a fundamental structure on how bills were to pass in the Senate. It was not a "mistake" when they decided that since the nation was a democracy it should only take 51 votes for a bill to pass in the Senate with 100 members!!! It is called "MAJORITY RULES" and if the party that has less than majority doesn't like then they need to find candidates that appeal to the WHOLE state instead of little pockets within a state. And win a majority of the seats!!! The decision to change it to this 60 SUPER MAJORITY was a NUCLEAR BAD DECISION and returning it to the way it was is just a return to COMMON SENSE.

    July 11, 2013 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  4. Ron L

    One other thing, I doubt in Harry Reid has the GUTS to do it. And he is being a "BUFFOON" because I GUARANTEE you that if and when the Republicans get 52 or 53 three seats they are going to return to the original structure. And their rational will be absolutely perfect...the founding fathers were correct in the original structure!!! It is such an obvious play you would have to be a "buffoon" not to see it coming.

    July 11, 2013 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  5. Uh-Clem

    Mitch McConnel had the audacity to claim that "a rules change would make Reid go down in history as "the worst leader of the Senate, ever." McConnel has already wrapped that one up as Minority leader.

    July 11, 2013 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  6. Ken

    Amazing how little people learn from the world around them. Look over in Egypt where the Muslim Brotherhood won majorities in government. And they used those majorities to keep pushing through changes that they wanted that enraged other Egyptians to the point the country collapsed. Democracy is a complex concept that requires a careful balance between those in power and those not in power. Our entire government structure is designed to try and prevent people with majorities of votes from trampling over those of the minority. That's why the Senate requires 67 votes to change the rules .. so someone with a simple 51 vote majority can't simply change the rules to the deteriment of the other 49 votes so they can pass anything they want. But of course the Democrats only care about power and how they can retain it. A balanced approach to leadership of this country is never something they think of.

    July 12, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  7. Katy Turner

    Tell those bullies!!!....that's exactly what they are!!!

    July 12, 2013 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  8. wjmccartan

    Well I would think that after all the time the democrates have been in a position to do so, they choose now to throw their support behind the President. What the heck was the hold up, its always wierd when two people of the same party can't support the one person who helped put them in the positions they are in today. Over five years before they say this Obama kid, he might have something. Well at least it will look like their all standing together in 2014, and its good to get the jump and show that their not ashamed of any of his policies, and stand as one. Especially with the republicans biting off their nose to spite their face.

    July 12, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  9. enuff

    Perhaps if they had not abused the filibuster to act like spoiled children, this wouldn't be an issue.

    July 12, 2013 12:48 am at 12:48 am |
  10. Michael Benjamin

    Republicans are to blame for the current gridlock. It has been McConnell who is the architect for the strategy to deny the president his cabinet choices. McConnell has never hidden dislike for Obama and announcing his primary goal was to make Obama a one term president. Twice the American electorate has voted for Obama by huge margins. Elections are supposed to have consequences. McConnell has snookered Reid once too often and he has finally pushed Reid over the edge.

    July 12, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  11. A J

    Senate republicans claim that Senator Reid's actions will destroy bipartisan cooperation in the chamber???? Wasn't Senator McConnell the one who said that he would work to limit President Obama's presidency to one term? It seems to me that McConnell has had no intention of showing any bipartisan cooperation. The republicans have been the party of 'NO' ever since Obama has been elected and reelected President, unlike the previous administration.

    July 12, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  12. loops808

    Reid is a hypocrite. In 2005, Reid opposed the exact same tactic. Where in this article is this mentioned? How could that be left out?

    July 12, 2013 02:25 am at 2:25 am |
  13. Truthful1

    Senator Harry Union Corruption Reid is upset because the Democrat led legislation from the Senate is full of Pork, and it seems that Hateful Harry is just trying do what every Liberal Democrat to the far left is using corruption, lying and distorting the truth as they follow our Racist President in Lock Step. The other traits of Liberal Democrats these days are that none of their Legislation has passed with out finding out that the Bills turning in to laws that they pass are incredibly flawed that even the President suspended his own Marque Health Care Law that simply costs way too much for a Single Adult to be paying.

    July 12, 2013 03:03 am at 3:03 am |
  14. mountainlady

    Gee, someone finally has the courage to limit the Republicans using filibuster to keep the business of the nation from being accomplished. I've had my doubts about Reid but not on this. We pay these guys to make our laws and keep the business of the nation operating and all they have done is obstruct and filibuster. This has been the worst Congress in the history of the country and anything that gets them back on the job has my approval. The GOP has held our nation hostage to their very limited and short-sighted agenda and it is long past time for this to stop.

    July 12, 2013 03:42 am at 3:42 am |
  15. CM

    The Senate isn't supposed to be a Rubber Stamp to the Executive Branch, no matter what party controls one or both. Maybe this is will prevent the number of political extremists who actually end up running this country...

    July 12, 2013 05:46 am at 5:46 am |
  16. Name Uche Agonsi

    Can these Repubs tell us why they evolve gridlocks/ hate politics in US Legislature? There is no rational way of evaluating issues in deliberations, & they call it politics. They are ruining Obama 2nd Term, without minding the harm on people. It takes two to play the game of poker. Well Reid should allow them the leverage of sorting the filibuster issue. Where it fails, then let the worse happen until someone comes to his sense........& for immigration they are stalling, if they cannot trust Obama with Security despite the fact US is secured now than ever before, IS IT THE REPUBS PEOPLE SHOULD TRUST WITH THE ECONOMY.

    July 12, 2013 05:49 am at 5:49 am |
  17. Richard Long

    If you can't get things done by the rules... change the rules. Sounds like a totalitarian regime to me.

    July 12, 2013 06:07 am at 6:07 am |
  18. Chris

    I keep hearing from the right that the GOP is only doing to Obama what the Dems did to Bush. Except in the entire 8 years of Bush's presidency the Democrats only filibustered two of Bush's appointments. In the 4 1/2 years of Obama's presidency, the Republicans have already filibustered over a hundred of Obama's presidency.

    And Republicans under Bush threatened to invoke the nuclear option on the Democrats just for using the filibuster at all. The Democrats under Obama are threatening to invoke the nuclear option on the GOP because the Republicans have turned the filibuster from a rarity into a stand operating procedure and a tool of blind obstructionism.

    Another false equivalency from the GOP.

    July 12, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  19. rconatser1

    What bipartisan cooperation? That's a load. The GOP does nothing but attack and obstruct, even over the smallest of issues. Since donning the mantra of "Make Obama fail" instead of "help America succeed," the GOP has rendered itself a detriment to America. Filibustering should be changed, period; it is far too abused. McConnell has used it over 400 times!!! It is a shame the Dems have even had to consider the "nuclear" option, but the GOP has left them no choice.

    July 12, 2013 06:46 am at 6:46 am |
  20. luckyone4

    So many bombs dropped by the Republicans. No choice but to pull out the nukes.

    July 12, 2013 07:10 am at 7:10 am |
  21. penguin

    There is nothing in the Constitution allowing a 60% "for" vote before a bill can be passed.How many politicians have won an election with 60% of the votes. Democracy is a simple majority

    July 12, 2013 07:13 am at 7:13 am |
  22. Bill inVA

    This is typical Washington. Think about the short term. The Democrats would have been beside themselves if the Republicans tried this when they controlled the Senate. The Democrats will regret this once they no longer control the Senate and that day will eventually come. Not sure how they get the 67 votes to change the rule. They will have to break a rule to change a rule. An even worse precedent that they will have to live with.

    July 12, 2013 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  23. Fr33d0mhawk

    Waaaaaa! GOPers who argued for the nuclear option "up or down, UP OR DOWN, snivel, snivel, whine, whine" are now crying even louder when the Democrats pull the same stunt. Bottom line, the GOP is a filibuster machine to the point of sedition or outright treason. And for McConnel to lie and snivel about the Constitution? Come on! The filibuster is not enshrined in the Constitution, but contrary to GOP mythology, separation of Church and State is. The GOP is the new Taliban and a far worse threat to America's freedom, and security than the cave dwelling Islamic Taliban.

    July 12, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  24. Name jk. Sfl. GOP conservatives,the garbage of America.

    Do it read, screw the incompetent GOP garbage of America!!!!

    July 12, 2013 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  25. ghost

    This is a long time coming. What took Reid so long. Time is being wasted.

    July 12, 2013 07:47 am at 7:47 am |
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