After years of trying, Senator Tom Harkin finally got a majority of his colleagues on board with Senate rules reform. Today 52 members of the Democratic caucus voted to curtail the minority’s ability to filibuster presidential nominees. The same 52 senators then rejected Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s objection to the ruling from the chair. Just like that, Reid invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” which Republicans used to call the “constitutional option” when they flirted with the same rule change in 2006. From now on, only a simple majority of 51 votes will be needed to end debate on a judicial or executive branch nomination–not the 60 votes needed for cloture before today.
A series of Republican filibusters against nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals finally pushed Reid to action. Immediately following the rules change, the Senate passed by 55 votes to 43 a cloture motion on the nomination of Patricia Millett, whom Republicans filibustered last month.
Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, vehemently objected to the rules change as a “blatant power grab,” while Harkin called for more limits to filibusters that block legislation. Comments from both senators are after the jump. President Barack Obama welcomed the rules change, saying, “I realize neither party has been blameless for these tactics … But today’s pattern of obstruction just isn’t normal.” But McConnell warned Democrats, “You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think.”
UPDATE: Added more comments from both Harkin and Grassley below. Grassley warned that when his party is in the majority, they will likely remove the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees as well. For the record, Senate Democrats have never filibustered a Republican president’s Supreme Court nominee.Continue Reading...