Tag: Nuclear Option

Nov 21

Congressional Game of Chicken: Harry Finally Did It

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

After months of Republican obstruction, the Senate Democrats voted to end the need for 60 votes to bring the name of a executive or judicial nominee to the floor for approval. The vote to end filibuster passes 52 to 48 with three Democrats voting against the change, Senator Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV) and Mark Pryor (AR).

With the rare presence of all 100 senators seated and Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) presiding as the president pro tempore, the change began when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) called up the nomination of Patricia Millett to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals for another vote. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) then called for a five hour recess for time to find a resolution to void the rules change. That motion failed 46 – 54.

Reid opened debate in the morning by saying that it has become “so, so very obvious” that the Senate is broken and in need of rules reform. He rolled through a series of statistics intended to demonstrate that the level of obstruction under President Barack Obama outpaced any historical precedent.

Half the nominees filibustered in the history of the United States were blocked by Republicans during the Obama administration; of 23 district court nominees filibustered in U.S. history, 20 were Obama’s nominees, and even judges that have broad bipartisan support have had to wait nearly 100 days longer, on average, than President George W. Bush’s nominees.

“It’s time to change before this institution becomes obsolete,” he said, citing scripture — “One must not break his word” — in accusing Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) of breaking his promise to work in a more bipartisan fashion.

McConnell responded to Reid by changing the subject to the Affordable Care Act and accusing Democrats of trying to distract Americans from the law’s troubled rollout. Getting around to fidelity, McConnell noted that Reid had said in July that “we’re not touching judges,” yet he was now choosing to do so. Reid casually brushed off his suit coat and sat down.

The Senate has finally put a partial end to a stupid rule that was originally intended to extend debate not block it. Now that the Democrats have shown some spine, the next move is to end the 60 vote threshold altogether.

Oct 13

Did Reid Just Use The “Nuclear Option”?

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

It sounded like Senate Majority Leader did just that last week in getting a vote that overrule the Senate parliamentarian’s decision. And while it didn’t end filibuster, it did leave the door open for its eventual demise. This is what took place this evening as initially reported by The Hill:

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.

As Ryan Grim and Michael McAuliff at Huffington Post point out, Harry Reid Busts Up Senate Precedent

McConnell moved to suspend the rules and shift debate over to the American Jobs Act. Reid argued that doing so amounted to another filibuster, because it required 60 votes to move back to the original bill, and so therefore was out of order. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who happened to be the presiding officer at the time, asked the Senate parliamentarian what he thought. The parliamentarian advised Begich that McConnell’s motion was in order.

Reid then appealed the ruling, following a script that advocates of ending the filibuster wrote long ago. What some senators call the “constitutional option,” and what others call the “nuclear option,” involves as a first step appealing a ruling that a filibuster is in order. The second step is to defeat a motion to table that appeal, which is exactly what happened next, with all but one Democrat sticking with Reid.

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With the chair overruled, McConnell’s motion was declared out of order, setting a narrow precedent that motions to suspend the rules are out of order during a post-cloture period.

But it also set a more important precedent. The advice of the parliamentarian is considered sacrosanct in the Senate. Reid’s decision to overrule him opens a gate to similar efforts that could also be done by majority vote.

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Reid’s move Thursday, in that context, is less abusive of Senate precedent than it first appears. The current rules create a situation in which two 60-vote thresholds must be met before a bill can pass, the first to end debate and the second to move to final passage. McConnell’s move to suspend the rules could have created additional 60-vote hurdles, clearly in violation of the spirit of the post-cloture period, which is intended to be a short stretch until moving to final passage.

David Waldman st Daily Kos came to this conclusion:

(T)he discussion on the floor has in fact wandered into rules reform territory, which is not altogether unfitting. If this really were the nuclear option, that would of course mean that the infamous “Gentleman’s agreement” was now inoperative, since part of that deal was that neither party would use the “constitutional option” (which would under most definitions encompass the slightly different “nuclear option” as well) in this Congress or the next. Do Republicans really want that door open? We can do that, I guess. But we might as well go all the way, then.

We’ll just have to see how much more frustrated Reid gets with the Republicans blocking everything. This may have some two years too late.

Up Date: The jobs bill failed to get enough votes to pass cloture. Looks like Harry still hasn’t found his last nerve with Republican obstruction.  

Sep 11

Is Voinovich just the first brick to Fall from GOP’s Stonewalling Rhetoric?

There is a crack daylight, that may topple the Republican’s Wall of Inaction.

Voinovich breaks with GOP to push for small-business incentives

Lori Montgomery, Washington Post Staff — Sept 10, 2010

Retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he plans to help push a package of small-business incentives through the Senate next week, a move that would give President Obama and congressional Democrats a key victory on the economy in the final weeks before the November midterm elections.

In an interview, Voinovich said he could no longer support Republican efforts to delay the measure in hopes of winning the right to offer additional amendments. Most of the proposed GOP amendments “didn’t have anything to do with the bill” anyway, Voinovich said, and amounted merely to partisan “messaging.”

“We don’t have time for messaging,” Voinovich said. “We don’t have time anymore. This country is really hurting.”

Finally a Republican Senator with some Integrity, who is willing work for the folks, that Voted him into Office  (instead of working against their interests, for his own gain …)