So long, filibuster. You will be missed.
Today the Senate used the so-called nuclear option to eliminate filibusters for most Executive and Judicial Branch nominees. Filibusters for Supreme Court nominees and legislation remain permissible…for now, at least.
The process by which the filibuster on most nominees was eliminated was complex, to say the least. Not too long ago, the Republicans defeated a cloture vote to cut off debate on a judicial nominee and this morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a motion to reconsider this vote. Along the way, he made a point of order—an objection about parliamentary procedure—that only a simple majority was needed for nominations to succeed. The presiding officer, Senate President pro tempore Patrick Leahy ruled that 60 were needed, per the body’s precedents. Reid appealed this decision and a majority of the Senate supported him. Thus the presiding officer’s ruling was overturned and now only a simple majority is needed to cut off debate on nominations. The Senate voted 52-48 in favor of the change, with 3 Democrats siding with the minority.
The Senate, including Majority Leader Reid, long held off on going nuclear because many majority Senators know what it’s like being in the minority and thus appreciate the filibuster’s power to halt a nomination, amendment, bill or any other business of before the Senate. They also know how the Senate can waffle back and forth between the parties. Yet the arguments to do away with the filibuster proved too strong for the majority. The President should be able to fill his Administration, the argument goes. The Democrats can now easily do so, but they are also stuck with all the various unintended consequences. As one conservative activist put it, “There’s a lot of (Antonin) Scalias and (Clarence) Thomases that we’d like to have on the bench. It will make it that much easier.”
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