First on CNN: Reid to push for ‘nuclear option’ in filibuster fight
July 11th, 2013
09:35 AM ET
10 years ago

First on CNN: Reid to push for ‘nuclear option’ in filibuster fight

Washington (CNN) - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected Thursday to push his fellow Democrats to support a controversial change to Senate rules - over the objection of Republicans - that would prevent filibusters against executive branch nominees, according to a Democratic source familiar with Reid’s thinking.

Such a move, if successful, would likely enrage Republicans who have warned of a “meltdown” in cooperation with Democrats if the new rules are enacted.

Reid will push to use the so-called “nuclear option” when Democrats meet privately Thursday to discuss what to do about their contention Republicans have abused the filibuster to block the president’s picks for top cabinet and agency posts. It’s not clear if enough Democrats will go along with Reid.

“Presidents – be they Republican or Democratic - deserve to have the people working for them that they choose,” Reid argued in a recent floor speech. “The Senate’s role is to advise and consent. But Republicans have corrupted the founders’ intent, creating an unreasonable and unworkable standard whereby the weakest of rationales is often cited as sufficient basis for blocking major nominees.”

Republicans argue they have not abused the filibuster and, in fact, President Barack Obama has won confirmation of nearly all his nominees.

“If this were a Republican president and the shoe were on the other foot, does anyone seriously believe that Washington Democrats would be going along with something so preposterous?” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell asked recently on the Senate floor. “Of course not.”

Senate rule changes typically require the support of a supermajority of 67 senators, but if Reid employs the “nuclear option” he would use a disputed parliamentary tactic to push it through with the support of just 51 senators.

Several controversial nominations are awaiting confirmation by the Senate, including Gina McCarthy to be Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Thomas Perez to be Labor Secretary, Richard Cordray to head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and three picks for the National Labor Relations Board, whose original appointments were clouded when Obama named them as recess appointments, though senators argued they were still in session.

At the meeting Thursday, Democratic senators are expected to strategize over when they will push for the change in rules and which of these nominees they might use to trigger the change. The Democratic source said Reid could act almost immediately if he has the backing of enough members of his caucus.

It remains an open question as to whether 51 of the 54 senators who caucus with the Democrats will go along with the change in rules. While many more junior members of the caucus – frustrated by the numerous GOP filibusters - want the change, some veteran Democrats, who have served both in the majority and minority over their time in the Senate, are more skeptical.

“There is always a need for rules reform but the way in which the nuclear option operates would be to break the rules to change the rules,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, who is retiring after six terms in the Senate. “It’s conceivable there would be even more gridlock around there than there is now.”

Filed under: Harry Reid • Senate
soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Sgt Rock

    Senator Reid, be very careful as to what you wish for, as you may get it. Not sure what his response will be when the Republicans eventually retake the Senate, and use his 51% rule to their advantage.

    Keep the rules as they are as it breeds compromise which is the hallmark of politics in a democracy.

    July 11, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  2. Sgt Rock

    Has anyone ever asked the people of Nevada why they keep reelecting Reid? How could they get it so wrong, so many times?

    July 11, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  3. GlenRN

    >>Sgt Rock – For the record, it is President Obama. . . he is not Irish and it is not O'Bama. . .

    July 11, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  4. codeblitz

    I hope he does it. Reid needs to do something. The last time I checked we were a majority rule republic. This means your elected officials have power. These GOP bullies are using filibusters to block anything and everything just for the sake of being obstructionists. Have they not figured out that we don't want obstruction. They are clearly not doing it to protect the public as a whole, they are protecting the few billionaires they are accountable to. Time we end this... Senator Reid, please go "nuclear." sir.

    July 11, 2013 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  5. knklhead

    It is one thing to restrict an appointment based on real objections .. it's another to block appointments just to be a Republican OBSTRUCTIONIST.

    July 11, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  6. cryofpaine

    I'd like to propose a change to the way congress "works" (and I use the term very loosely). Every conflict is resolved with a gladiatorial fight to the death. It would make the process much more entertaining, and slowly remove these do-nothing congressmen who are preventing things from getting done. Maybe after the first few, they can even learn to work together like they're supposed to.

    July 11, 2013 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  7. DDG000

    It's a bad idea. Yes, the Republicans are being babies and throwing temper tantrums right and left, but the problem is with the culture in Washington and not the rules. If Reid does this it will come back to haunt the Democrats down the road.

    July 11, 2013 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  8. T

    The crazy Senate rules that require 60 votes are unconstitutional because they take away the Vice President's constitutional power to break a tie vote in the senate. The only way to have tie votes possible is if all senate voting is done by a simple majority.

    July 11, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  9. PoBoy

    Change the rules, because even if the Senate changes leadership, the President, regardless of party will be allowed to have ALL his nominees at least receive a fair vote. Allowing filabustering of nominees for specious reasons is simply foolish, and this has been done by both parties.

    July 11, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  10. sammy750

    Old man, senile McConnell thinks he runs this nation. I don't think so. He will be defeated next year. He will finally lose his Senate seat and dictatory powers. He and Boehner are Dictators. This senile guy has been trying to destroy the nation for years and needs to be defeated in 2014. The people are tired of his actions.

    July 11, 2013 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  11. Sgt Rock

    GlenRN, I did it on purpose. Of course I know he is not Irish, he is Kenyan (just said that to rile you).

    It is my way of showing my utter contempt and dislike for the man. He is a proven liar, and that alone should make even you dislike him. BUT, there is no accounting for taste or good common sense.

    July 11, 2013 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  12. Sgt Rock


    Of course Democrats would NEVER resort to pure partisan bull pucky when it comes to appointments. Never ever.

    July 11, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
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