Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to invoke the nuclear option, effectively violating the customs and traditions of the Senate filibuster that Democrats have held so dear in the past.
Reid’s move would change longstanding Senate rules that require 60 votes to break a filibuster. Reid’s new rules would require only a simple majority for all executive and judicial nominees other than those to the Supreme Court.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told TIME that he has been in discussions with the Democratic leadership, a role revisited multiple times from at least 2005 through this year. Reid rejected an offer by McCain Wednesday, according to an aide familiar with the discussions, since the proposal did not allow the Senate to move forward to allow a vote on all three of President Obama’s nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Over the past three weeks, Republicans have filibustered the nominations.
“Stay tuned over the next 24 hours,” McCain said, who noted that he takes the new rhetoric “seriously, but I’ve heard it a couple of times before.”
This is at least the third time, this year, Reid has made the threat.
The move is seen by some as an abuse of majority powers, and by others as setting a bad precedent that Democrats will regret as soon as the Senate changes control – which it has a good chance of doing, next year.
In 2005, when Bush was in power, Reid and his fellow Democrats were passionately against the nuclear option.
“The threat to change Senate rules is a raw abuse of power and will destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government,” Reid said at the time.
He was joined in this denunciation of Republicans who were also considering the “nuclear option” by a number of his Democratic colleagues.