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. Walter Adams

    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 Democrats? The Republican party of "No" is more delusional than I thought.

    July 11, 2013 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  2. Charles

    Meltdown of cooperation?? Haven't the right already done that?

    July 11, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. Vince

    A "meltdown" in cooperation? HA! What cooperation. Go nuclear.

    July 11, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  4. OMG

    @Tony in Maine
    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.

    Unfortunately, I don't think the Democrats worry enough about the day the Republicans take the Senate. I believe the Republicans will exercise the nuclear option in a heartbeat and not just for executive branch nominees. They'll do it whether the Democrats do it now or not. Of course, that's just my opinion but their behavior in the past 5-6 years has been shameful and I see no end in sight to it.

    July 11, 2013 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  5. mitchgam

    It is long past time that the rules governing the US Senate change.
    Republicans have for too long obstructed the Senate by using them.

    The same should go for the House, were bills passed by the Senate can't even be brought up for a vote, unless the majority leader supports them.

    July 11, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  6. gb0432

    the Dems don't have the courage to do behooves them just to keep the same ineffective system in place...that way they can never be held accountable for getting anything done....

    July 11, 2013 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Jeb Bush

    Republicans don't get to pick the President's cabinet. They lost the election and need to get over it. It's time they stopped being the party of NO and actually offered the American people a positive vision for moving the country forward.

    July 11, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  8. TexDoc

    While I am a republican. I don't think the founding father's meant for 'advise and consent' to be as poltical as it has become. The idea was to have a check on nepatism and incompetence in the executive branch, not block any appoitment. Simple majority should be required for all appointmens (except judges), and rejection of a candidate should be ONLY in cases of incompetence or corruption.

    July 11, 2013 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Steveo

    I think the the concern is what happens when the GOP takes the Senate. The DEMS will then have to live by their own rules. I reallly believe that is the fear!

    July 11, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. scott


    It is long past time that the rules governing the US Senate change.
    Republicans have for too long obstructed the Senate by using them.

    The same should go for the House, were bills passed by the Senate can't even be brought up for a vote, unless the majority leader supports them.
    The Democrats used the same tatics, stalling and delaying everything when they were the minority, its no different.
    However their are not enough Dem's that will vote for it as they do not have the guts.

    July 11, 2013 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  11. brian

    why don't they get rid of him already? if i don't do my job for 4 years, i would have been fired long time ago.

    July 11, 2013 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  12. Jacob Ransone

    Only Harry Reid, who has the IQ of a Nevada lizard, would think it a wise move to dirty the procedures that have guided the United States Senate for decades. Truly, the man has no conscience and no business being in leadership of a major American political party.

    July 11, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  13. intercept440

    let me put this to everyone here for all to understand. the democrats are DESTROYING our country. if you dont believe me then why is there only 83 comments on this thread ? which is almost two days old? surely the country would have sounded off if this was not the case? no??? only a very small few bleeding heart demos even believe the crap that comes out of reids mouth . and none of nevadans, trust me im from nevada, reid is the biggest snake in the senate, he will lie cheat and steal anything to help his beloved socialst party . take care what you wish for people. and dont start crying when you find the grass is not only greener on the other side, but a souless dead entity.

    July 11, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  14. SuperD

    Will you please quit calling the Republican's obstruction. It's not. Obama, the Dems in Congress and the Senate are FLAMING LEFTISTS!

    Their ideas for governing STINK! All you have to do is look at Obamacare to see what these idiots are capable of.

    You don't seem to realize the Republicans are doing the job they got elected to. There's a reason they held the House, and thank freeken god they did! Obama unchecked is a disaster surely to happen, thank goodness there was only 2 years of this tyranny, but we got stuck with Obamacare as a result.

    Obstruction? Hardly, The Republican's are the adults in the room and I'm sorry you Lefty's call that obstruction. The child like Democrats need their rear ends spanked on a regular basis. Reid and Pelosi are your poster boys.

    July 11, 2013 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  15. republicans are whimps

    Think about it: Do republicans really have any reason to exist? What do they do besides yell NO and jabber on, foaming at the mouth, about some insane paranoid gibberish, or try to get their filthy, sticky, perverted, grubby little hands into the pants of women and tell them what to do with their bodies. Why do we let republicans waste our air like this?.

    July 11, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. Sniffit

    "The Democrats used the same tatics, stalling and delaying everything when they were the minority, its no different."

    No they didn't. They used the filibuster, sure, but not even remotely as much as the GOP has. It's not even in the same ballpark. The GOP has made the filibuster standard operating procedure and have consistently set records for its use, for using secret holds, for filibusters of nominations, for delays in even providing a confirmation hearing to nominees, for just about every aspect of Senate business. There's a vast vast difference between using it once in a while on particular issues or nominees versus simply using it every single time and making it a complete and utter requirement of any legislation whatsoever that it have 60 votes to even reach debate.

    July 11, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    "There's a reason they held the House"

    Yeah, gerrymandering their districting in states they control is the reason. They lost the House by 1.3M votes if you look at how much of the country actually voted for their House candidates..

    July 11, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. vic

    Filibuster is a joke. Nothing will ever get done. Congress and the Senate should be paid for the days they actually work. It is always easy to say NO to everything. Get the GOP out!!

    July 11, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  19. vbscript2

    Funny how this is the very same thing Democrats were enraged about when it was considered to stop their own appointment filibusters just a few years ago when they had a minority in the Senate. Harry Reid, it's time to step down as leader.

    July 11, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  20. Dwayne

    No matter who is President a majority is 50 + 1; I believe that is truly the way the founding fathers planned our system. When these new super majorities and gerrymander rules begin to cloud what the founder fathers designed, I believe we all know how some would like to rig the system in their favor. The civil war is over! A majority is 50 + 1, please do the math!!!

    July 11, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. solex

    Republicans have VERY short memories. A few years back, democrats were preparing to filibuster yet another cut taxes for the already rich legislation that the GOP was trying to push through.

    The GOP then threatened to use the "Nuclear" option to get the bill passed. Of course, it was an entirely reasonable solution in their eyes. The obvious hypocrisy is astonishing.

    July 11, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  22. A True Conservative

    Go ahead Harry – make my day! Remember to be careful about what you wish for – you may get it......when you are no longer in the majority. But then liberals have very short memories.....and seem to never take responsibility for anything...... "Why do we let republicans waste our air like this?" Wow – the compassionate left speaks again. They love long as they agree with them. Do you have a clue what comments like this make you look like? Do you even care....or is that simply beyond you?

    July 11, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  23. GOP = Greed Over People

    "Meltdown" in GOP cooperation?

    I suspect the earth would not spin off it's axis, if the GOP did not "cooperate" in the naming of post office buildings!

    Push the button Reid, what have you got to lose?

    July 11, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  24. Derek

    Yes, do this. The Republican clowns need to learn that they do not represent the majority of the people. It's time to stop the filibustering, and next we need to get rid of gerry-mandering. When 90% of the people want something ( gun control ) and the republicans can still block it, then we have a problem.

    July 11, 2013 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  25. Jen

    51 could be just as big a hurdle as 67, if the President's party isn't in control of the Senate.

    July 11, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
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