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Harry Reid detonates the ‘nuclear option’

"Harry Reid detonates the ‘nuclear option’" Continued...

After the vote, Republicans took turns lamenting the biggest change to the way the Senate operates in a generation. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., warned, “If the majority only can change the rules, then there are no rules.” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said the vote removed “one of the last meaningful checks on the president … any president.”

The debate over changing the filibuster has occupied the Senate for at least a decade. When Republicans were in the majority they discussed the move, which has been dubbed the “nuclear option,” after Democrats filibustered Bush nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Those past debates, including in 2005, featured role reversals with then Sen. Joe Biden warning that the nuclear option “makes a mockery of Senate rules.”

But the majority party always fell short of detonating this nuclear option. That changed on Thursday. This time Vice President Biden gave his approval to the nuclear option.

So far during Obama’s presidency, the Senate has confirmed 209 of his nominees and rejected only five.

“By any objective standard, Senate Republicans have been very, very fair to this president,” McConnell said.

Three-fifths of the Democrats currently in the Senate have never served in the minority. After enjoying a 60-plus, filibuster-proof majority during the first two years of Obama’s presidency, Democrats have struggled to move the president’s legislative agenda under a more tightly divided Senate. That frustration boiled over on Thursday, leading to this unprecedented change. But Republicans warn that there will come a day when the roles are reversed.

“Majorities are fickle,” said Sen. Grassley, who has served in the Senate since 1981. “Here today, gone tomorrow. That is a lesson that sadly most of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle haven’t learned.”

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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