Please disable your Ad Blocker to better interact with this website.


Executive Branch Power Grab If Reid Goes Nuclear


Harry Reid is ready to go nuclear.

After months of quiet lobbying, Democratic sources say the powerful Senate  majority leader is ready to invoke the “nuclear option” to limit the use of the  filibuster on executive branch nominations as early as next week.

The move could have dramatic implications for both Reid and  President Barack Obama. It would also amount to a significant shift in power  away from the Senate and toward the White House by ensuring presidential  nominees win confirmation to their posts by a straight majority vote.

The result would be a quicker confirmation process for controversial  presidential nominees, but infuriated Republicans could look to retaliate in  other ways, such as derailing Senate business or further weakening filibuster  rules if they return to the majority after the 2014 midterms.

Reid appears to have enough support within the Democratic Caucus to go  forward with the proposal, several Democratic senators and aides said. Reid will  use a senators-only meeting on Thursday to lay out his plans.

“I’m going to have a caucus on this Thursday and I think … by the time the  day’s out you’ll have a better idea on what we’re going to do on this,” the  Nevada Democrat told reporters on Tuesday afternoon.

Under current Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster on a  nominee or legislation. With Reid’s proposed rule change, only 51 votes would be  needed to end filibusters on executive-branch nominees. Senators from either  party could still force 60-vote thresholds for confirmation of judges, pending  bills and virtually every other Senate action.

But what makes the move unprecedented is Reid’s likely decision to change the  rules by 51 votes in a complicated process called the nuclear option. Typically,  Senate rules are rarely changed because 67 votes are required to modify them,  meaning the minority side can usually thwart any attempt by the majority to ram  through rules’ revisions.

However, there are several parliamentary tactics that Reid can employ to  circumvent the 67-vote requirement. By going the nuclear route, Republicans are  warning that Reid would set a damaging precedent that would come back to haunt  Democrats should the GOP take back the Senate majority. They could seek to  further weaken filibuster rules by a straight majority vote, effectively helping  them to advance a conservative agenda, including the repeal of Obamacare.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen because then when Republicans get into  the majority, we will be able to pass legislation and nominees with 51 votes,”  said Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the No. 2 Republican. “So I think it’s very  shortsighted and would be fundamentally damaging to the Senate as an  institution, which encourages deliberation and debate rather than just jamming  stuff through on a partisan basis.”

“He better think about what he’s doing very carefully,” Cornyn warned.

Reid is teeing up for next week a series of controversial confirmation votes  that Republicans may seek to block, including Obama’s nominations to head the  Environmental Protection Agency, Labor Department and Consumer Financial  Protection Bureau. Stalled nominations for seats on the National Labor Relations  Board also are expected to face confirmation vote.

Read More