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. rs

    I think my preference would be to leave things as they are. However, as the GOP has tied the Senate up in knots, and blocked any number of appointments with merely threatening to filibuster (i.e. not even being honorable enough to actually WORK to block votes) and have demanded a super-majority vote on everything, maybe it is time to do just what Reid is proposing.

    July 10, 2013 07:51 pm at 7:51 pm |
  2. Data Driven

    Note Levin's doubt about this. (McConnell, of course, is no surprise.). Even the best Senators really just enjoy that filibuster. They'll never give it up.

    All in all, the US Senate is just a front group for the malignant moneyed interests who put the Senators there to begin with. Guess who the Senators are working for? Hint: not you.

    July 10, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  3. Anthony in California

    Sorry but Republicans had their “meltdown” in cooperation with Democrats the moment Obama was elected.
    Remember "our priority is to make him a 1 term President"
    or "no no no"
    or the obstruction, the record number of filabusters, the fight against the AHCA,
    or opposing EVERYTHING SINGLE THING Obama has tried to do.

    Its time the Democrats spine up and just shove the Republicans out of the way and do whats best for the country already.

    July 10, 2013 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  4. CaliLiberal

    The only thing worse than a Republican is a Democrat with no spine. I would ask Carl Levin, What more can Republicans do to obstruct? If that is the basis of his argument against Filibuster reforms, then it is an invalid one. This is the worst congress in the history of congress. The rampant obstructionism, blind partisanship and blatant disregard for the women, unemployed, poor, children, and less fortunate in this country is amazing. The only thing more amazing is either the willful blindness or just sheer stupidity of the American People to get these useless sucklers of the governmen'ts teet out of office!

    July 10, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Ray E. (Georgia)

    Go for it Harry!

    July 10, 2013 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  6. just sayin

    We are with you Senator!

    July 10, 2013 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. Fair is Fair

    Harry Reed entered into a gentleman's agreement with Mitch McConnell to curb the filibuster. Of course, the Republican snake went back on his word. Harry should shove it up the turtle's shell so far that he won't know what hit him!

    July 10, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  8. Liz the First

    WHAT COOPERATION WITH DEMOCRATS????? that melted down the day Obama was inaugurated the first time. the Party of NO has been on strike ever since. they're basically stealing the American people's money refusing to do the jobs they were elected to do. I hope Reid gets the nuclear option passed and maybe we can start getting some things done. the American people need to go Nuclear on the rethugs and vote every last one out of office!

    July 10, 2013 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  9. Larry Tyrrell

    Bless you Harry! Behind you 100%!

    July 10, 2013 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  10. Pete

    I hope Reid does use the Nuclear Option because if it can help republicans in a potential meltdown than let the melting begin!!Republicans have set records for filibusters since Pres.Obamas inaugeration and why should we as democrates give a crap about anything that helps republicans ,they certainly haven't helped America or its citizens have they,just ask republicans here the ones in denile!!!

    July 10, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  11. The Elephant In The Room

    The nuclear option SHOULD be applied but the Democrats should do it in a way that preaserves the high ground for them.
    1.) Give it a expirationm date . . . . like Bush tax cut
    2) Dems should put on a public spectacle to call voters attention to it as a counterbalanmce tobGOP obstructionism. This is the type of "change" [a functional government] that voters want. But donjt shirk from talking about it.
    3) Apply it to Federal judiciary nominees if possible. The VRA & AA cases show the ends to whicxh the GOP will go to pervert the courts to get their way.
    State GOP legislatures are ramming through anti Abortion measures, the voters be damned. It's timebfor some tough action on the federal judiciary. Finally, Dems, don't be afraid. With Demographic shifts and no ability to gerry mander statewide Senatorial races, the opportunities to lose the majority are less than they used to be and loses wouldn't last long. Hold this over the GOP tobget them to behave.

    July 10, 2013 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  12. ggggg

    good. its time for this, republicans wont agree to anything.

    July 10, 2013 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  13. Zerubbabel

    It's about time the dems are growing a pair.

    July 10, 2013 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  14. PJ

    "...........would likely enrage Republicans who have warned of a 'meltdown' in cooperation with Democrats if the new
    rules are enacted".
    Is this a joke? Since when have the Republicans "cooperated" with Democrats? Mitch McConnell is showing his
    desperation to be relevant more every day. His willingness to let the American people suffer because he is no
    longer the Senate Majority leader is pathetic.

    July 10, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  15. Patrick

    Only 2 NLRB Members received recess appointments. The other, whose re-nomination is pending, is Chairman Mark Pearce, who was confirmed by the Senate.

    July 10, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  16. Tony in Maine

    Meltdown if Democrats don't go along with Mitch McConnell's obstruction? How could Republicans be more obstructionist than they are now?

    Reid must eliminate the filibuster – whichever party musters 51 votes on any bill or nomination wins. I know that Democrats worry about the day when the Republicans take the Senate, but the alternative to killing the filibuster is the current paralysis forever.

    July 10, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  17. rosethornne

    ooooh- a "meltdown" in cooperation.....
    I wonder what a melted zero looks like?

    July 10, 2013 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  18. the observer

    Hmm. A "red button" to fight against the misuse of the filibuster, bound to have a somewhat noisy outcome if it actually pass. what' re your thoughts about this issue people?

    July 10, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  19. penguin

    The Republican's say this would cause a "meltdown in cooperation." There hasn't been any cooperation between the Parties since the Republicans swore to do everything in their power to make Obama a one term President. The Republican Party is a disgrace

    July 10, 2013 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  20. Raadgast

    All other arguments aside, I do not understand how the minority party in the senate can say with any seriousness they have not abused the filibuster.

    July 10, 2013 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  21. us_1776

    GOP threatens a "meltdown in cooperation" !!!

    A HA HA HA HA HA....

    Good one, GOP.

    Ain't seen no cooperation out of you GOP obstructionists in over 6 years.

    NUKE EM, Harry.


    July 10, 2013 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  22. JumpingJack

    Republicans have already melted down. It happened on day one of the Obama Presidency. Reid is correct to seek new rules for the Senate. But, the bottom line is that he will probably relent.

    July 10, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  23. jinx9to88

    "Republicans argue they have not abused the filibuster and, in fact, President Barack Obama has won confirmation of nearly all his nominees." ROTFLMAO!!! Republicans have not abused the filibuster?? What the heck has been going on the past 5 years? These guys are a joke!! They think america is stupid, well I guess they do have people that still vote for them.

    July 10, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  24. solex

    Funny that republicans are so upset about this option when they threatened to do EXACTLY the same thing when one of their endless tax cuts for the already rich legislation was being stopped in the Senate by Democrats. Of course at that time, the "nuclear option was completely acceptable.

    This and other GOP maneuvers like Dick Cheney claiming that the office of the Vice President was not part of the executive branch and therefore not subject to congressional oversight are now coming back to haunt the GOP.

    Yet another double standard tactic – it's OK when we do it but not when YOU do it,

    July 10, 2013 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  25. Thomas

    Sounds good since the republicans wast so much time and energy on obstructing executive branch nominees from doing there job.

    If the President needed a plumber to fix a sink at the white house , the Republicans would filibuster the plumber for being left handed.

    Rand Paul / Aqua Buddha and a bottle of Rebel Yell 2014 ?

    July 10, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
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