Republicans are so outraged by the Democrats' use of the "nuclear option," they're threatening to nuke back.
After today’s Senate vote to eliminate the use of the filibuster for presidential nominees (except for the Supreme Court), Mitch McConnell vowed revenge. Evoking the tragicomic specter of unified Republican control over government, the minority leader admonished Democrats for overreaching. “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this,” he warned.
Stop mourning bipartisan comity, sanctimonious Beltway scolds! It died a long time before the filibuster did.
Democrats have all the leverage. Why won't they use it?
Up until three weeks ago, Senate Republicans had gone out of their way to block Obama’s highest-profile executive-branch nominees, typically for no other reason than that the president had selected them. The GOP finally backed down after Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to do away with the filibuster for such appointments, and seven nominees promptly sailed through the Senate. But the victory was fleeting.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been having a rough couple of weeks—ever since an emboldened Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, declared in mid-July that he was willing to use the nuclear option to stop Republican filibusters of executive nominees.
As you’ve heard or read by now, perhaps from my colleague Alec MacGillis, the big standoff over presidential nominations and the filibuster is over. On Tuesday morning, Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement about those seven nominees that the GOP was blocking. Basically, the Republicans are relenting. Votes on all seven will take place.
The constitutional crisis du jour has been averted. The Senate will proceed with the confirmations of most executive branch nominees that have been held in limbo by Senate Republicans threatening a filibuster, including new chiefs for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Sometimes gridlock is good. Ninety-eight senators met in a rare, closed-door session on Monday night. A smaller group of senators, including the leaders of both parties, met separately afterwards. The goal of both sessions was to work out a compromise on a series of presidential nominations that Republicans have been blocking. By all accounts, the discussions were cordial and constructive.
Is Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander such a proud upholder of Senate tradition that he can’t bear to give ground on the filibuster? Is he simply spoiling for a fight? Or, like a drunken frat boy yelling, “Come at me, bro!” is he feeling both a little piqued and a little reckless at the same time?
Why filibuster reform matters
What happens if an entire 80-year-old agency of the United States government with some 1700 employees effectively ceases functioning, even as it continues to exist on paper and occupy a line on the federal budget?