Nov 21 2013


Reid, Democrats trigger ‘nuclear’ option; eliminate most filibusters on nominees

By Paul Kane, Washington Post

Updated: Thursday, November 21, 1:11 PM

The partisan battles that have paralyzed Washington in recent years took a historic turn on Thursday, when Senate Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations, severely curtailing the political leverage of the Republican minority in the Senate and assuring an escalation of partisan warfare.

The rule change means federal judge nominees and executive-office appointments can be confirmed by a simple majority of senators, rather than the 60-vote super majority that has been required for more than two centuries.

The change does not apply to Supreme Court nominations. But the vote, mostly along party lines, reverses nearly 225 years of precedent and dramatically alters the landscape for both Democratic and Republican presidents, especially if their own political party holds a majority of, but fewer than 60, Senate seats.

The vote to change the rule passed 52-48. Three Democrats – Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) – joined with 45 Republicans in opposing the measure. Levin is a longtime senator who remembers well the years when Democratic filibusters blocked nominees of Republican presidents; Manchin and Pryor come from Republican-leaning states.

(T)he impact of the move is be more far-reaching. The means for executing this rules change – a simple-majority vote, rather than the long-standing two-thirds majority required to change the chamber’s standing rules – is more controversial than the actual move itself.

Many Senate majorities have thought about using this technical maneuver to get around centuries of parliamentary precedent, but none has done so in a unilateral move on a major change of rules or precedents. This simple-majority vote has been executed in the past to change relatively minor precedents involving how to handle amendments; for example, one such change short-circuited the number of filibusters that the minority party could deploy on nominations.

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