Nuclear Meltdown in Senate

On Thursday, the Democrat Majority in the Senate led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took the once unheard of step of using the “nuclear option” to pass by a simple majority vote those of President Obama’s judicial nominees deemed controversial by opponents. While the President and Senate Democrats lauded the move as a way to help fix Senate gridlock, Republicans warned of a near-term power play by the White House and a long-term problem for the Senate as a body.

President Obama reacted to the vote:

 Now, I realize that neither party has been blameless for these tactics. They've developed over years, and it seems as if they've continually escalated.  But today's pattern of obstruction, it just isn't normal. It's not what our Founders envisioned…. So I support the step a majority of senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business -- more specifically, the way the Senate does business. What a majority of senators determined by Senate rule is that they would restore the longstanding tradition of considering judicial and public service nominations on a more routine basis.

However, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) offered a different perspective:

Earlier this year the Senior Senator from New York said they want to “fill up the D.C. Circuit one way or another.” And the reason is clear. As one liberal activist put it earlier this year, President Obama’s agenda “runs through the D.C. Circuit.” In short, unlike the first two years of the Obama Administration, there’s now a legislative check on the President. And the Administration doesn’t much like checks and balances. So it wants to circumvent the people’s representatives with an aggressive regulatory agenda, and our Democrat colleagues want to facilitate that by “filling up” a court that will rule on his agenda — a court that doesn’t even have enough work to do. Especially if it means changing the subject from Obamacare for a few days.

Senator McConnell also noted the long-term precedent this move makes for the Senate should it change hands in a future election and suggested that while this path of “wishful thinking might appeal to the uninitiated newcomers in the Democratic Conference who’ve served exactly zero days in the minority…. others in their conference should know better.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: November 22, 2013