Amid the news of Sen. Harry Reid pushing through the so-called “nuclear option” that prevents filibusters for certain nominations–and President Obama’s statement supporting the new measures–the folks at the C-SPAN Video Library dug up an old clip of then-Senator Obama warning the measure would increase “bitterness and gridlock,” and that it would “be no fairer” if passed by Democrats.
The new Senate rules, passed over an agreement that the filibuster would be saved from last July, appeared to be a critical threat to Senator Obama in 2005, when Republicans suggested the nuclear option to streamline appointments. Calling it a matter of “protecting free and democratic debate,” Sen. Obama made a compelling argument for Republicans to “rise above ends justify the means mentality” and not “end democratic debate.” Arguing that Americans sought to send representatives to Congress while minimizing nasty discussions, hoping for Senators to “disagree without being disagreeable,” he warned that, should the rules change, “the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”
To go through with the nuclear option, argued Sen. Obama, would be “to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.”
Most notably, Senator Obama predicted, “one day, Democrats will be in the majority again, and this rule change will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic minority.” Though a Democratic majority currently exists in the Senate and succeeded where the Republican majority in his time as Senator failed, President Obama did not make any such statements about the relative fairness of the measure Thursday.
Instead, President Obama praised the nuclear option as a way to stop the “unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that has prevented too much of the American people’s business from getting done.” “It’s not what our Founders envisioned,” he said of the current state of affairs in Congress, also calling it “not normal” multiple times. The President emphasized what he seemed to note were extraordinary circumstances in the legislature that required the removal of a centuries-old legislative procedure that he once thought indispensable to the natural flow of fair American government.
Watch Senator Obama’s take on the nuclear option in 2005, courtesy of C-SPAN’s always-impressive Video Library, below: