The man who coined the term 'nuclear option' regrets ever pursuing it
November 21st, 2013
01:32 PM ET
1 year ago

The man who coined the term 'nuclear option' regrets ever pursuing it

Washington (CNN) - Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s message to current Leader Harry Reid could be boiled down to this: I know how you feel, but trust me, you are going to regret this.

Lott watched Thursday as Senate Democrats invoked the “nuclear option” by voting to change filibuster rules and made it easier for them to approve President Barack Obama’s judicial appointments that Republicans have blocked.

Why does Lott know from experience that Reid will regret this? Because he has “been there” and “knows how it feels.”

Lott is widely considered the man who coined the term “nuclear option” when he said a similar 2003 plan was “nuclear.”

“It was mistake when we were talking about doing it,” Lott told CNN shortly after Thursday’s senate vote. “I still believe the Senate is a unique institution and the rules – no matter how cumbersome and difficult – are better than just making it another House of Representatives.”

In 2003, Republicans were frustrated that Democrats were continually blocking judicial nominations by then-President George W. Bush. Out of that frustration, Lott devised a plan that allowed Republicans to confirm judicial appointments with a simple 51-vote majority – not the standard 60 votes threshold needed to break a filibuster.

Lott, who now prefers to call his plan the “constitutional option,” said it didn't take him long to believe it was an error to even pursue the plan.

“Pretty quickly, I concluded I made a mistake,” he said. “It was natural for us to do it because we were mad about them filibustering district and circuit court judges. I was irate about it. But it can come back to bite you and they [the Democrats] are going to regret this."

Lott’s point is one that many Republicans have made: While these moves may seem desirable when you are in the majority, those fortunes can shift with one election and Democrats could quickly find themselves with less power in the minority.

Or as the former Republican leader put it: "Once you let the cat out of the bag, he is out."


Filed under: Harry Reid • Senate • Trent Lott
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Bruce Eder

    And everything Trent Lott said would make sense, if only the Republicans hadn't raised the ante in the last few weeks - suddenly, they decided that the president would not get ANY appointees to the DC court, which flies in the face of precedent and procedure. It was time to pull the plug on this nonsense.

    November 21, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  2. Fay

    You people who defend the present-day Republicans are really so very misguided. You are really rooting against yourselves. Most of the Republicans do not care about the people, including you. I can understand why Reid had to take such a drastic measure. The Tea Party spends millions on ads lying to gullible people like you. Look at the millions they are spending to convince idiots that Obama Care is bad for them, including the young people who would make a difference to its success. It is already successful in a few states. You are so critical of the man who has your best interest at heart. Have you forgotten how the Republicans shut down the government knowing they would only hurt people? Well, if you are foolish enough to believe them, then you will deserve what you get if they are voted into office. The pity is that a lot of people will pay the price for the stupidity and gullibility of people like you.

    November 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  3. MrRickinNH

    Ole Trent... the king of pork himself! With words of wisdom for who exactly??

    November 21, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
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