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. Gerry Daley

    The Republicans are warning about a "meltdown" in cooperation? Oh, please...*what* cooperation?

    July 10, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  2. Name

    I hope they (the Democrats) grow that spine and do it... We the people had enough of these Republicans

    July 10, 2013 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  3. James

    When the GOP floated this idea while the democrats were filibustering Bush's nominees, the DNC flipped...
    Leave the rules as they are. Lifetime appointments should never be an easy sell..

    July 10, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  4. Paul

    If the Republicans had not set records (in the history of the country) for the most filibusters since Obama was elected president, we wouldn't be having the discussion. Republicans have only themselves to blame

    July 10, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  5. Michael Benjamin

    Go for it Harry. The Republicans have been unreasonable obstructionists.

    July 10, 2013 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  6. DocHollywood

    You can't get more gridlocked than what is happening now. Change the rules. Get rid of the fillibuster, particularly on the executive nominations. And make any fillibuster of a vote on a law the old fashioned way. Make the senator fillibustering own it, no more secret holds. And make the senator actually get up and fillibuster by talking, like the original fillibuster was.

    July 10, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. Robin Jones

    Be careful, Harry. Politics isn't boxing. In politics, no matter how hard you hit him, the other guy will always get up and hit you back.

    July 10, 2013 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  8. Otto

    It's about time!

    July 10, 2013 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  9. Todd

    The left doesn't like rules that don't help them push their agenda. Just remember do this now and you reap this when the conservatives take back the Senate.

    July 10, 2013 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  10. mickey1313

    This is just the gop being mad, because they refuse to play ball, the dems are sick of it, and now they are going to bypass the bi-partisanship.. I am not a defender of the dems, but the gop is out right evil.

    July 11, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  11. TKO

    It's about time–when the GOP promised not to abuse the filibuster rules by blocking minor legislation and appointments, Reid believed them They lied and did it anyway. The GOP has no moral standing of any sort on any issue. Period.

    July 11, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  12. Vicki

    Please do this Senator Reid. Republicans have done nothing but filibuster and obstruct the people who we need in our government department to do the work. There is not way these republicans will start cooperating so please do what is necessary so that President Obama's nominees are treated with respect and get an up or down vote from the whole Senate. I am so tired of the filibusters that are just to make sure nothing worthwhile gets done for America.

    July 11, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  13. gwiz

    say no to the nuclear option tom delay tried this in 04 and was lambasted for it dont do it now dems need to be the smarter party dont go the repug road remember u might be the minority again so say no to the nuclear option

    July 11, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  14. cole

    Your headline suggest a huge change... That can cause confusion and fear...

    July 11, 2013 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  15. ThinkAgain

    I'm done with Republicans obstructing the will of the American people who elected President Obama TWICE, retained a Democratic majority in the Senate, and cast more votes for Democratic House candidates in 2012 than for Repub candidates (by more than 1 million).

    Repubs are anti-American and anti-representative democracy. Enough is enough!

    July 11, 2013 01:57 am at 1:57 am |
  16. mario

    just do it already

    July 11, 2013 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  17. loops808

    Reid is a hypocrite. In 2005, he opposed the use of the nuclear option. Where in this article is this pointed out?

    July 11, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  18. bshares

    It is about time someone breaks the filibuster since the republicans have obstructed again. Regardless who is president the republicans want to stop at nothing to cripple the president instead of legislate and pass anti abortion bills. They should be put out of a job for not doing nothing but obstruct.

    July 11, 2013 03:00 am at 3:00 am |
  19. king

    its about time Reid!!! what melt down in corporation are the repubs talking about. they have been killing everything this president does for the past 5 years with this crazy super majority filibustering crap, i thought this country was a democratic country which, means majority rules, i haven't heard of a democratic country which says that a super majority rules. Reid you cannot take heed to these repubs threat, because they dont have to answer to you, they have to answer to their constituent back home. it is a travesty the way these repubs used this super majority rule to kill everything this president tries,

    July 11, 2013 04:25 am at 4:25 am |
  20. blue max

    seems like the dems have no choice, the gop continues to act like spoiled brats.

    July 11, 2013 04:55 am at 4:55 am |
  21. Name willard

    I think that reid are too old man

    July 11, 2013 05:00 am at 5:00 am |
  22. Committee to Elect Karin L.Swanson for President, U.S. Election 2016

    Senator Reid is delusional in his assessment of the Senate's role in supporting nominations of presidential appointees. Under the color of law the confirmation process must remain adversarial to bring to light unwanted issues giving rise to controversial considerations such as seditious group affliations in past years. -KLS

    July 11, 2013 05:19 am at 5:19 am |
  23. SC

    Reid, it's long overdue.

    July 11, 2013 05:21 am at 5:21 am |
  24. Neutral Observer

    Just remember, both sides, what goes around comes around.

    July 11, 2013 05:31 am at 5:31 am |
  25. Ward Cleaver

    Cut pay by half of congress"persons".

    July 11, 2013 05:32 am at 5:32 am |
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