Senate Avoids Nuclear Meltdown

An 11th hour deal prevented a “nuclear” war in the Senate this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week threatened a major Senate rules change that would allow Executive Branch nominations to proceed with a simple majority of votes rather than the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. Senator Reid believed he had the support to make the change, but Republicans raised great alarm. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated last week:

Senate Democrats are gearing up today to make one of the most consequential changes to the United States Senate in the history of our nation. And I guarantee you, it is a decision that, if they actually go through with it, they will live to regret. It’s an open secret at this point that Big Labor and others on the Left are putting a lot of pressure on Senate Democrats to change the rules of the Senate – and to do so by breaking the rules. That would violate every protection of minority rights that have defined the United States Senate for as long as anyone can remember. Let me assure you: this Pandora’s Box, once opened, will be utilized again and again by future majorities – and it will make the meaningful consensus-building that has served our nation so well a relic of the past.

Ultimately, after a rare all-Senators meeting on the subject in the Old Senate Chamber in the Capitol on Monday night, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) was able to broker an agreement with top Democrats to avoid the “nuclear option” by guaranteeing the swift Senate approval of five executive nominees, among them replacements for two controversially appointed members of the National Labor Relations Board that Democrats agreed to withdraw from consideration. While a number of Senators welcomed the resolution, not all were pleased. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) remarked on Twitter, “Senate Republicans preserved the right to surrender in the future.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 19, 2013