Harry Reid: Actively weighing ‘nuclear option’
By: Burgess Everett
November 19, 2013 03:33 PM EST
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he is actively weighing a change in Senate rules to limit the filibuster.
After Senate Republicans blocked the third of President Barack Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday, the Nevada Democrat stopped dodging questions about whether he would try to dilute the GOP’s ability to block nominees and eliminate filibusters on judicial nominees.
Reid leaned into the issue on Tuesday when he was asked by reporters if he is considering pursuing the “nuclear option” — a unilateral change to Senate rules by a majority vote.
“We need to do something to allow government to function,” Reid said. “I’m considering looking at the rules. Let me just give a mini, mini-lecture on this. The Founding Fathers never had any place in the Constitution about filibusters are extended debate.”
“All this sacred nature of this filibuster? I think what we need and what the American people want is to get things done around here,” he added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the GOP is simply doing its duty on rejecting court nominees they believe are unnecessary and seemed unworried about the ‘nuclear option’ talk, noting that threats to the minority’s powers have historically fallen short.
“If advise and consent means anything at all, then occasionally there’s going to be a situation where consent is not given,” McConnell said. “Majorities of both sides over the years have resisted the temptation to break the rules to change the rules.”
The leader said there is simply no middle ground on reaching a deal to approve perhaps one or two blocked judges rather than the full slate of three: Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard and Robert Wilkins, who was rejected on Monday. A fourth nominee was blocked earlier this year and another approved unanimously. There are now three vacancies on the 11-seat court.
“I insist in getting all three of these,” Reid said. “Why should we agree to something less than the law of the country?”
Reid refused to say whether he was whipping his 55-member caucus to support a rules change, which requires 51 votes. But Reid dismissed suggestions by Senate institutionalists like retiring Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) that existing filibuster rules instead should be more actively enforced, requiring a senator perform a talking filibuster on the Senate floor.
“What would that accomplish?” Reid told a reporter with a shrug. “I love Carl Levin, he’s one of my friends, we’re going to miss him very much. But the world’s not like it was 30 years ago. Different world here.”