Dan Holler

“Democrats Invoke ‘Nuclear Option’ in Senate”

This is not a prediction of what will happen this week, but rather documentation of what has already happened in Harry Reid’s Senate. That’s right: Reid has already invoked the nuclear option. On October 6, 2011, ABC News explained:

“Democrats invoked the so-called ‘nuclear option’ to change the rules in the U.S. Senate, bypassing Republicans and evading two difficult votes, including one on President Obama’s jobs bill.

“The procedural precedent, which blocked Republicans from adding more amendments, could speed passage of a bill to punish China for currency manipulation.

“It could also open a Pandora’s box, forever altering the traditions of the senate and its role on Capitol Hill.

“…Republicans sought to add as amendments to the China currency bill two measures on which Democrats did not want to vote – one was on the President’s jobs bill, which they hope to change, and another was from Senator Mike Johanns, R-NE., to block EPA rules on farm dust.”

Reid’s use of the ‘nuclear option’ 649 days ago provides more clarity as to what exactly the ‘nuclear option’ is and why it is such a big deal. Throughout much of the recent debate, we’ve heard – and understandably so – about the filibuster and confirmation process for judicial and executive branch nominees.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained President Obama “has had 1,540 of his nominations confirmed, only 4 defeated. He's not lost a single member of the cabinet. He's getting them faster than President Bush was at the same time in his second term.”

Before McConnell went into the numbers, he explained the reason the ‘nuclear option’ is called the ‘nuclear option’ is “because it's breaking the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate.”

And while it is absolutely true most folks don’t enjoy getting into the weeds on congressional procedure, conservatives must understand the procedure. Not only does a mastery of procedure help advance policy, but knowledge will also help explain Harry Reid’s actions.

Briefly: The Senate can change it’s rules at any time by a two-thirds vote (67), but the ‘nuclear option’ provides a way to bypass that super-majority threshold and change the rules with a majority (51). And yes, Vice President Joe Biden could be the decisive vote.

Dan Holler

Dan Holler is the Communications Director for Heritage Action for America. Previously, he held numerous positions at The Heritage Foundation, most recently he was the Senate Relations Deputy. A Maryland native, he is a graduate of Washington College.