By Jueseppi B.
Senate goes for ‘nuclear option’
The Senate approved a historic rules change on Thursday by eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In doing so, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invoked the long-threatened “nuclear option,” meaning he called for a vote to change the Senate rules by a simple majority vote. It passed, 52 to 48. Three Democrats voted against changing the rules — Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
The unprecedented rules change means that most of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.
Both parties threatened to change the rules in recent years, but Reid said he felt compelled to finally pull the trigger after what he described as unprecedented use of the filibuster on Obama’s judicial picks — namely three blocked judges to the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said in a lengthy floor speech on Thursday morning.
The changes get rid of filibusters on most presidential nominees, but preserve the filibuster for Supreme Court picks and legislation. The Senate’s vote to push the button on the “nuclear option” is unprecedented and is likely to lead to a further erosion of the filibuster in the future.
Thank you POLITICO.
Power Grab – Senate Votes To Change Filibuster Rule Invoking So-Called “Nuclear Option”
Published on Nov 21, 2013
Wake The Hell Up America Your Republic & Freedom In Grave Danger!!
Power Grab – Senate Votes To Change Filibuster Rule Invoking So-Called “Nuclear Option”
The nuclear option, called the constitutional option by some proponents, is a generic term for a set of parliamentary maneuvers that could be used in the United States Senate to achieve approval of certain motions by a majority vote, rather than the “super-majority” required by current Senate rules and precedents. The nuclear option has arisen in reaction to the frequent use of Senate rules by a minority of Senators to block consideration of a nominee for an Executive Branch or judicial position (or less frequently, a bill or resolution). Between the 1970’s and 2013, threats by the majority party to use some version of what is now known as the nuclear option resulted in some changes to Senate rules and practices to limit opportunities for blocking nominations, without actually invoking the nuclear option itself. In November 2013, Senate Democrats used the nuclear option to eliminate filibusters on executive branch nominations other than those to the Supreme Court.
Current Senate rules require a three-fifths majority (“duly chosen and sworn” — usually 60 votes) to end debate on a bill, nomination or other proposal (or two-thirds (“present and voting” — 67 or fewer votes) for a change to the Senate rules), effectively allowing a minority of the Senate to block the measure through the technique of the filibuster. This has effectively resulted in a requirement that a nomination have the support of 60 Senators to pass, rather than a majority of 51.
In most variations of the nuclear option, the presiding officer of the Senate would rule that a simple majority vote is sufficient to end debate, and if the ruling were challenged, a majority would be required to overturn the ruling. This would mean, for example, that 51 Senators who favor a nomination could use their majority to uphold the presiding officer’s ruling that only 51 votes are needed to end debate and proceed to a final vote, and once the 51 had voted to end debate, they would then have sufficient votes to confirm the nomination. This would end what has effectively become a 60-vote requirement for confirmation of an executive or judicial nominee, or the passage of legislation.
Some variations of the nuclear option involve changing the Senate rules themselves, while others would use the maneuver to create a new precedent for particular types of measures, by having a majority of the Senate uphold the ruling of the presiding officer that a previous rule or precedent is no longer valid.
The metaphor of a nuclear strike refers to the majority party unilaterally imposing a change to the filibuster rule, which might provoke retaliation by the minority party. The alternative term “constitutional option” is often used with particular regard to confirmation of executive and judicial nominations, on the rationale that the United States Constitution requires these nominations to receive the “advice and consent” of the Senate. Proponents of this term argue that the Constitution implies that the Senate can act by a majority vote unless the Constitution itself requires a supermajority, as it does for certain measures such as the ratification of treaties. By effectively requiring a supermajority of the Senate to fulfill this function, proponents believe that the current Senate practice prevents the body from exercising its constitutional mandate, and that the remedy is therefore the “constitutional option.”
The history of the “nuclear” option, though not the name, has been traced to an opinion written by then-Vice President Richard Nixon in 1957, while he held the title President of the Senate. Nixon’s opinion stated that the Constitution grants the presiding officer of the Senate the authority to override Senate rules by making a ruling that is then upheld by a majority vote. Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) first used the term “nuclear option” for this maneuver in March 2003.
A series of votes in 1975 have been cited as a precedent for the nuclear option, although some of these were reconsidered shortly thereafter.
The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush. In response to this threat, Democrats threatened to shut down the Senate and prevent consideration of all routine and legislative Senate business. The ultimate confrontation was prevented by the Gang of 14, a group of seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators, all of whom agreed to oppose the nuclear option and oppose filibusters of judicial nominees, except in extraordinary circumstances.
The nuclear option was raised again following the congressional elections of 2012, this time with Senate Democrats in the majority (but short of a supermajority). The Democrats have been the majority party in the Senate since 2007 but only briefly did they have the 60 votes necessary to halt a filibuster. The Hill reported that Democrats would “likely” use the nuclear option in January 2013 to effect filibuster reform, but the two parties managed to negotiate two packages of amendments to the Rules concerning filibusters that passed on January 24, 2013, by votes of 78 to 16 and 86 to 9, thus avoiding the need for the nuclear option.
In July 2013, the Senate Democratic majority came within hours of using the nuclear option to win confirmation of seven of President Obama’s long-delayed executive branch appointments. The ability of the minority party to filibuster appointments was preserved by a last-minute deal in which the White House withdrew two of the nominations in exchange for the other five being brought to the floor for a vote, where they were confirmed.
On November 21, 2013, Senate Democrats used the “nuclear option” to require only a majority vote to end a filibuster of certain executive and judicial nominees, not including Supreme Court nominees, rather than the 3/5 of votes previously required. A 3/5 supermajority is still required to end filibusters unrelated to those nominees.
From The Hill:
The Senate voted Thursday to change its rules to prevent the minority party from filibustering any nominations other than nods to the Supreme Court.
The change was approved after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered the “nuclear option,” which allows a change to Senate rules by majority vote.
The 52-48 vote dramatically changes the rules of the Senate and limits the minority party’s ability to prevent confirmation of presidential nominees. Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote against Reid’s rules change.
It will allow all three of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to go forward, as well as his nomination of Rep. Mel Watt to lead a housing regulatory agency.
Reid said the change was necessary to get the Senate working again.
“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said on the Senate floor.
“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I agree.”
The procedural motion is known as the nuclear option because critics warn it would obliterate bipartisan relations in the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ripped Reid for triggering it.
McConnell accused Democrats of picking a “fake fight over judges” to try and “distract the public” from the problems of ObamaCare.
“It only reinforces the narrative of party willing to do or say just about anything to get its way,” said McConnell.
“One again, Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate … in order to change the rules of the Senate,” he said.
“And over what? Over a court that doesn’t have enough work to do.”
The specific procedural vote to change the Senate’s rules was to sustain the ruling of the chair that nominees need 60 votes to advance to final passage.
Democrats voted against sustaining the ruling of the chair and in favor of changing the Senate’s rules. The final vote was 48-52.
Thank you The Hill.
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