Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2014

Currently: 78° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Harry Reid threatens to push plunger on ‘nuclear option’

Harry Reid

Harry Reid

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

Tick, tick, tick. Wait for the boom.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid warned the Senate this morning that he was all but ready to employ the so-called “nuclear option” and have the Senate vote, by simple majority, to end the procedural filibuster — at least for presidential nominations.

“I’m not going to wait another month, another few weeks, another year for Congress to take action on the things we have been doing for 240 years,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. “I refuse to unilaterally surrender my right to respond to this breach of faith.”

Reid accuses Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of breaking a deal they made at the beginning of the year to work together to streamline President Barack Obama’s nominees “in a timely manner, by unanimous consent, except in extraordinary circumstances.”

In exchange, Reid promised not to upend the procedural filibuster, which requires the majority to collect 60 votes in favor of a bill or nominee whenever a member of the minority raises and objection.

“Those were his words, those were his commitments, those were his promises. By any objective standards, they have been broken,” Reid said.

Since then, Reid pointed out, Republicans have tried to block the nominations of former Sen. Chuck Hagel to lead the Department of Defense, Tom Perez to lead the Department of Labor, Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Donald Berwick to lead the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Richard Cordray to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and three recess-appointed nominees to the National Labor Relations Board.

“It is a disturbing trend when Republicans are willing to block executive branch nominees, even if they have no objection about the qualification of the nominee,” Reid said. “They’re blocking qualified nominees to circumvent the legislative process...They’re blocking qualified nominees because they refuse to accept the law of the land.”

Reid did not go so far as to detonate the so-called nuclear option and call for a vote to undo the filibuster then and there Thursday morning. But he hinted that this would be the topic du jour at a meeting of Senate Democrats on Thursday afternoon and that Republicans should brace for the impact.

If he goes ahead with it, Republicans are guaranteed to cry foul, because they say it’s Reid who will be breaking faith, not them.

“We got to this point on the basis of an absolute fairy tale,” McConnell said angrily in response to Reid’s speech Thursday morning. “If this isn’t a power grab, I don’t know what a power grab looks like.”

McConnell said he never uttered the words Reid presented as a promise McConnell made in early 2013.

Reid later allowed that they were his own words, but noted that McConnell had said, “I agree” when he spoke them.

McConnell said Republicans have done their part confirming judicial nominations at a fair pace and rejected the idea that Republicans were unduly delaying Obama’s cabinet nominees.

“What [Reid]’s really saying here is he doesn’t want any debate at all in connection with presidential appointments,” McConnell said. “Just sit down, shut up and rubber stamp everything.”

McConnell also questioned the motivation for the potential rules change, arguing that Democrats were simply motivated by trying to rush through the three National Labor Relations Board recess appointments made when Congress wasn’t necessarily in full recess. The Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of those appointments next year.

“This isn’t really a fight over nominees at all. It’s a fight over these illegal, unconstitutionally nominated nominees,” McConnell said. “It’s just laughable to think that Democrats would ever agree to such a thing if we were talking about a Republican president’s unlawful nominees.”

McConnell also charged that if Reid undoes the procedural filibuster for nominees, it would only lead to a further dismantling of the rules of the Senate down the line.

“This Pandora’s box, once open, will be utilized again and again by future majorities,” McConnell said. “No majority leader wants written on his tombstone that he presided over the end of the Senate. Well, if this majority leader caves to the fringes and lets this happen, I’m afraid that’s exactly what they’ll write.”

But Reid is sticking to his guns — and the principle that filibustering nominees is wrong.

“The Constitution gives the president, whoever that president might be, the right, the power to choose his team. He grants the Senate the right to advise and consent on those choices...But consistent objection by the Republican senators have turned advise and consent into deny and obstruct,” Reid said. “Nominees should be subject to simple up or down votes.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 11 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. "He grants the Senate the right to advise and consent on those choices..."

    No, Harry, the Constitution grants that. And if you think only the GOP fights against nominees, than Justice Robert Bork would like a word.

  2. The GOP is the most racist Orginazation in our country, The very reason they Obstruct everything put before them is their hatred for Obama!! They were not succesful in keeping Obama from a second term, their intention now is to Obstruct any and all bills put before them, even if it means bringing this country down. Harry must not (repeat) NOT CHANGE HIS MIND NOW.........

  3. howzie - "And if you think only the GOP fights against nominees, than Justice Robert Bork would like a word."

    You can't possibly make that comparison, Republicans filibustered and blocked almost everyone Obama wanted in his administration. He hasn't been able to appoint judges to the D.C. circuit, he even had to battle the GOP when he appointed Republicans to positions of leadership.

  4. When the Republicans had the majority in the Senate and were going to use the nuclear option to prevent Reid and the Democrats from using the filibuster to continue to obstruct presidential nominees, Harry Reid argued vehemently in defense of the filibuster and called Republican threats to invoke the "nuclear option" as completely improper.

    I hope that one of the Republican senators takes the opportunity on the floor of the US Senate to read the text of the speech I'm linking to which talks about why the filibuster is necessary in the US Senate. The speech was originally delivered to the Senate by Minority Leader Harry Reid on May 18, 2005 defending the use of the filibuster that Democrats were using to block the confirmation of Bush's presidential nominees.

    http://democrats.senate.gov/2005/05/18/r...

  5. Vernos: "You can't possibly make that comparison, Republicans filibustered and blocked almost everyone Obama wanted in his administration."

    Yes, we can indeed.

    Republicans right now are using the filibuster to block 8 of Obama's appointments. In 2005 Democrats used the filibuster to block 10 of Bush's appointments.

    Sounds like it's pretty much the same.

  6. TrueAmericanPatriot: "We live in a land of majority rule."

    Apparently you have never read the US Constitution since it doesn't actually say that anywhere.

    But once again I will direct you to Harry Reid's own speech where he says " And this is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail. It also separates us from the House of Representatives -- where the majority rules."

    So Harry Reid specifically said that the majority should NOT have absolute rule in the US Senate. Not even with cabinet and administrative appointments...
    "And yes -- even to stall executive nominees." - Harry Reid.

  7. There's no argument! Reid the Red is a hypocrite' always has been, always will be. No where else is it truer than with the cretin that "you get the government you deserve." For 8 years, all he and his fellow travelers, aka Dumbocrats, did was obstruct nearly every initiative, program or appointee that the Republicrats or George W proposed. That's what the "loyal" opposition does under our system. Now, however, the shoe is on the other foot and Reid the Red wants to dismantle the one tool that protects the minority from the "tyranny of the majority." If that occurs, wait until the Republicrats gain the majority and you'll see the worms screaming bloody murder in similar fashion to the use of "special" prosecutors after the Republicrats took "Sick Willie" Clinton to the woodshed. Dumbocrats are so dumb, they never learn their lesson!

  8. Got to love the left on here....no arguments, just name calling.

  9. wendor (Charles Gladu) - "Republicans right now are using the filibuster to block 8 of Obama's appointments. In 2005 Democrats used the filibuster to block 10 of Bush's appointments."

    http://www.propublica.org/article/under-...

    "All presidential administrations have vacancies. But an analysis of appointments data by ProPublica shows that President Obama hasn't kept up with his predecessors in filling them. A greater share of presidentially appointed positions that require Senate confirmation were sitting vacant at the end of Obama's first term than at the end of Bill Clinton's or George W. Bush's first terms."

    "At least 68 of the positions remain vacant, including 43 that have been vacant for more than a year."

  10. TrueAmericanPatriot - "Is it your contention that we do NOT have majority rule?"

    Correct. That is why the US Constitution did not establish a Democracy, it established a Constitutional Republic.

    The entire purpose behind having have elected members of Congress is to remove the extremely dangerous mob mentality that can result from straight "majority rule".

    And as Reid even pointed out in his speech, the reason for having two separate houses in the legislature, one with representation apportioned by population (House) and one not (Senate) is to establish an even further check on "majority rule"

    Based on your username I would have thought you would have spent at least some small amount of time learning how the US Government is structured.

    Again, please read Senator Reid's speech. He explained quite well why it is important to *NOT* have simply majority rule in the US Senate.

  11. Since the Senate will most likely return to Republican control and reasonability in a little over a year, It will be great that we will be able to stop Obama and his despicable Muslim driven, anti baby, drone type politics that destroy jobs in every single way.

    The unions should protest Reid in putting this ini place, but in little more than a year, we will have Republicans who will have control and can trash every single despicable anti American idea obama and his clown wife has through this option.

    Hallelujah.