Excerpted from WASHINGTON TIMES
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid laid the groundwork Thursday morning for going “nuclear” and changing the Senate’s rules to end filibusters of executive branch nominees, saying that he’s changed his mind since the beginning of this year.
Mr. Reid began the year pledging not to use the so-called “nuclear option” to change the chamber’s rules as part of an agreement with his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell. But on Thursday Mr. Reid said Mr. McConnell had broken his end of the agreement, which dissolves the bargain.
“A deal is a deal, a contract is a contract, an arrangement is an arrangement , a bargain is a bargain, as long as each party to such an agreement holds up his end of the bargain,” Mr. Reid said in a floor speech Thursday morning.
“I refuse to unilaterally surrender my right to respond to this breach of faith,” the Nevada Democrat said.
He has scheduled a meeting for Senate Democrats later in the day to plan a final strategy, but said he has already decided to begin the process Thursday, which would set up the key “nuclear” vote next week.
If Mr. Reid does push the nuclear option — forcing a rules change through a majority vote, rather than the usual two-thirds required to change chamber rules — it would poison an already contentious chamber.
“It’s a decision that, if they actually go through with it, they will live to regret,” Mr. McConnell said.
While it takes only a majority vote to approve a nominee, they are able to be filibustered by the minority party, essentially creating a 60-vote threshold for any nominee to have to clear.
As lawmakers have stepped up their use of the filibuster, it’s shifted power from the president, whom the Constitution gives the right to nominate officers, and to the Senate, who is charged with giving “advice and consent” to those nominees.
Mr. Obama tried to regain some of that power by using his recess appointment powers in an unprecedented way, naming members to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the National Labor Relations Board even though the Senate didn’t consider itself in recess.
Two federal appeals courts have ruled Mr. Obama’s NLRB nominations violated the Constitution, and late last month the Supreme Court said it will hear one of the cases — which could dramatically circumscribe the president’s power.
Mr. Reid waited until after he cleared an immigration bill through his chamber to raise the issue, knowing that it would be so contentious that it could have ruined his chances to win the bipartisan vote he ended up earning on that bill.Democrats pioneered filibusters of judicial nominations when they repeatedly blocked some of President George W. Bush’s picks to the federal courts. Keep reading