Nuclear: Reid, Senate Dems pass rule change barring filibusters on executive and judicial nominees, 52/48

It’s a 10-kiloton bomb, not a 10-megaton one: Supreme Court nominees will still require 60 votes for cloture before confirmation. The possibility of a Republican president and a Republican Senate pushing through pro-life justices is too horrifying to the left for them to risk changing the rules on SCOTUS appointments too.


This doesn’t apply to legislation either, but so what? Once the precedent of weakening the filibuster in one context is set, it’s easy for either party to cite it in expanding that precedent to another context. My new mantra: 51 votes for repeal.

“The need for change is so very, very obvious,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, as almost every senator sat at his or her desk in recognition of the significance of the moment. “It’s clearly visible. It’s manifest we have to do something to change things.”

Twice earlier this year, Democrats had threatened to move on the nuclear option in the face of Republican opposition to nominees, but both times an agreement was reached to avert the move. Republican Sen. John McCain told reporters Thursday that he had been working “night and day” to find an agreement this time, but that he had thus far had “no success.”…

Reid said that the gridlock made it necessary for the Senate to “evolve.”

“It’s time to change,” Reid said. “It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”

“It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete” will make for a fine soundbite in 2017 before the big repeal vote is held. In fact, it’s the growing prospect of the Senate turning red in 2015 that led Reid to this, I think. Ed argued this morning that it seems rash for Democrats to weaken the minority party’s rights when it looks like they’ll end up in the minority themselves sooner rather than later. The counter to that, though, is that as GOP odds of retaking the Senate increase, so does the pressure on Reid to get as much done as he can in the relatively short time he might have left as majority leader. Obama will still be in the White House in 2015 even if Democrats are wiped out in Congress by a backlash to ObamaCare, so there’s no risk of Republicans ramming their own appointees through until 2017 at the earliest. Essentially, he’s betting that in 2016 Democrats either will reclaim the Senate or hold the White House, either of which will mean a continuing check on GOP power. It’s a gamble but it’s not a crazy one. You could even argue that the GOP should have done it itself long ago:


Meanwhile, Ed’s right that this may lead to more procedural gridlock in the Senate in the near term, not less. Now that Reid’s attacked minority rights, the GOP has no reason to play even slightly nice. No more unanimous consent. Everything by the book from now on. If Reid wants to rewrite that book again and set yet another precedent that Republicans will happily exploit down the road, fine.

Exit question via Matt Lewis: “If Republicans went nuclear first in order to ram through right-wing judges,’ how would breaking the rules have played in the media?”

Update: Look on the bright side, though:

Update: I’ve been assuming that everyone already knows that Reid and other Democratic leaders are hypocrites about this, but in case you need a reminder, here you go.

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Jazz Shaw 5:21 PM on September 27, 2023