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. Name Uche Agonsi

    There is already a 'meltdown' in cooperation between the Repubs & Democrats, no thanks to the Repubs' politics of hatred. In my considered view, Reid's thought deserves serious consideration. Its a healthy change. McCain was in this line of reasoning when he said that matters should rather be discussed, not subjected to filibusters. Obama Administration's decissions are being deliberately subjected to unnecessarily legislative gridlocks by these Repubs. Besides, it makes more sense to allow legislative issues to crop up without unreasonable hinderances, those to be assented by simple majority will go through, with the ones requiring two-third majority subjected to such condition. Honestly, Africa & the world in general are beginning to feel that US does not deserve President Obama.

    July 11, 2013 05:39 am at 5:39 am |
  2. Brad

    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.

    What cooperation?

    July 11, 2013 05:53 am at 5:53 am |
  3. Keith

    "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."

    LOL! As if that's any sort of threat? There's been about as much cooperation on the Hill from Republicans since Obama was elected as there has been evidence of the sky turning green. The Dems have elected not to enact these rules twice now on promises from Republicans that they'd behave a bit and quit with the filibustering of almost every item before the Senate. They've lied. So, what choice do the Dems have? Not like it'll do any good, but at least this move will force a vote on several appointments. Yay for government working for the people. 🙁

    July 11, 2013 06:13 am at 6:13 am |
  4. Chris

    "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." – What cooperation with the Democrats? Republicans already mindlessly obstruct every piece of legislation because they are more concerned with seeing Obama fail then for America to succeed.

    July 11, 2013 06:32 am at 6:32 am |
  5. Nick

    Will someone PLEASE get Harry to retire? He obviously is following the lead of the unions, and unions don't represent the majority of Americans. This type of political incest with unions has to stop NOW.

    The rules were written this way so that an executive could not become too powerful and change the separation of powers, and the balance of powers, between the three branches of government. Once again Democrats want to throw away the Constitution for their own benefit.

    July 11, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  6. ditdahdit

    Laws are one thing, appointees are quite another. The GOP seeks to shut down the present government any way they can, fair or foul. The rest of the country expects important departments to actually be functional, whether radicals within the opposition object or not. Nuke 'em!

    July 11, 2013 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  7. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    YOU don't seem to understand who WE are !!!

    Are the OBAMA Cartel !!!

    Don't answer to NO stinkin "Congress" !!!

    July 11, 2013 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  8. Name

    Makes sense. As long as it's limited to the appointment for cabinet and agency posts...

    July 11, 2013 07:09 am at 7:09 am |
  9. andrew

    Yes, the Republicans will get upset with this if it happens, but you KNOW that if the republicans were in charge right now they would have no problem enacting the nuclear option. I just wish Harry Reid would grow a pair and act like a LEADER!

    July 11, 2013 07:14 am at 7:14 am |
  10. onlyfacts

    We elected these people with a majority of votes to be our representative, so the majority of legislative decisions would go "our way". These clowns should make the filibuster obsolete. If the minority doesn't like it then your party better run a better campaign next time. Period!

    July 11, 2013 07:24 am at 7:24 am |
  11. Gurgyl

    AI rather want Fillibuster reform set in Earmarks too....pass voter reform with federal regulations.

    July 11, 2013 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  12. bcrunner

    During the Bush administration the Republicans almost enacted the "nuclear option" over just two nominees if you will recall that the Democrats were holding up. Well... the Republicans are holding almost EVERYTHING up...

    July 11, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  13. Steveo

    GOP threatens the Nuke option = the DEMs whine, Dems threaten the nuke option = the GOP whines. This really reminds me of a circular firing squad! Yet we STILL think there is much difference between the two?

    @Andrew, I agree If the GOP were in charge, they'd do the same!

    July 11, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  14. Tom

    "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."

    How, exactly, will we be able to tell if this happens? It sounds like just an average day for Republicans. I say Reid should go for it. It really can't make things any worse and it might allow some things to be accomplished.

    July 11, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  15. Marty, FL

    Republican politicians have already had their childish "meltdowns" with NO cooperation.

    And ridiculous Reid should have already changed the abused filibuster months ago.

    July 11, 2013 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  16. Debbie

    Republicans are already enraged. Congress is stalled and is failing. Change rules and move on. The filibuster has been overused. The filibuster goes against what the Constitution set up as a fair and just bi-cameral Congress. I don't believe Reid or Dems have the guts to do it but it would show real leadership.

    July 11, 2013 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  17. ThinkAgain

    @Nick: How does wanting to put an end to Repubs going against the will of the American people mean Reid is a puppet of the unions?

    Recent case in point: The proposed law to extend background checks on gun purchases died in the Senate because it got 54 votes. Last time I looked, that is a MAJORITY. But since it wasn't 60 (a super-majority), the bill died in the Senate because the Repubs were going to filibuster it.

    Repubs were going to filibuster a law extending gun control – even though a majority of Americans support it.

    My source? A Fox News poll conducted in April of this year that found that 82% of voters, 72% of Republicans, and 77% of people from gun-owning households support expanding background checks on all gun sales.

    So, yeah, launch the nukes, Harry! It's long overdue.

    July 11, 2013 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  18. A True Conservative

    Wow – the left crucified the Repubs when they threatened to do that it's their turn it's OK.....what a bunch of hypocrites the left is......

    July 11, 2013 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    Oh, dear. GOPerville is threatening a "meltdown". Will this meltdown be similar to that which they've been doing since January 2009? Or are we to see a much more spectacular temper tantrum? Cage fighting perhaps? Reality-like pay per view voting?

    July 11, 2013 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  20. Abbey

    Thanks to the good people of Nevada for sending this in-effective leader to Washington. Cooperation has never been required in today's politics.

    July 11, 2013 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  21. A Kickin' Donkey

    The Republicans brought this on themselves. They deserve it. Moreover, this is how the people expect Congress to work. We don't want the Administration's Cabinet choices, Federal Judiciary choices (or anything else we expect the President to achieve via his Constitutional Authority) to be held up by partisan sniping.

    Republicans are insuring that they are a "minority party" on a national level with their policies {anti-immigration, anti-women} , behavior {record filibusters on everything} and candidates {Murdoch, Akin. Bachmann, Perry, Cain, Romney< Walker}. Mr. Obama got over 5 million more national votes than Romney. The same will be true for the Senate nationwide and it will only exacerbate with time.

    July 11, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  22. Robert Harvey-Kinsey

    I understand their reticence. This rule cuts both ways depending on who is in power, but the reality is that the Republicans have simply stopped cooperating. What are they going to stop doing that they have not already stopped? This is really their issue as they have taken away the incentive not to revoke this rule on the opposing side. They would do the same and if this rule was brought back they would not if the Democrats kept cooperating. For some reason the Republicans now view cooperation as complete capitulation. They are not synonymous.

    July 11, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. robjh1

    Why is Justin Beiber being such a brat? He is trying to break his bubble gum image?

    July 11, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  24. anotherGDlefty

    Most people here are saying the same thing....threatening a meltdown? The meltdown has been in full swing for 5 years thanks to Mitch McConnell being upset over 2008 election results.

    Nuke 'em Harry, compromise is dead for now on everything and you are now dealing with a house that cannot pass a citizenship test on how American government processes work. Do it.

    Get back to governing because constant obstruction with no other plans being presented is NOT governing.

    July 11, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Winning

    The Republicans haven't cooperated for 4 years. It's about time Reid did this. They need to get rid of this stupid filibuster completely. I thought that during the Bush years when the Democrats abused it, and I think it now when the Republicans are abusing it. Enough is enough with this stupid thing.

    July 11, 2013 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
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