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‘It’s Obama II’: Nuclear Option Button Pushed for Nominees, but Obama Talks Legislative Agenda Too

One of three Democratic voices standing up to rules change was Levin: "Today, we once again are moving down a destructive path."

Bridget Johnson


November 21, 2013 - 12:34 pm
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WASHINGTON — In a move that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called “the most important and most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pushed the button on the long-threatened “nuclear option” today to require a simple majority to move forward President Obama’s judicial nominees.

There were three Democratic defectors — Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — on the rules change, which came to the floor over the block of three judges intended for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Levin said he was being consistent with his previous opposition when a Republican majority flirted with the nuclear option in 2005.

“Since its creation, the United States Senate has been uniquely committed to protecting the rights of minorities. It has done so in part through its rules governing debate. Its rules protect the right of members to speak until a super-majority is ready to end debate and to proceed to a vote on the matter before it. Matters are then decided by a majority vote, except for treaties, veto overrides and certain points of order,” Levin said on the floor in a lengthy objection to the rules change.

“Today, we once again are moving down a destructive path. The issue is not whether to change the rules. I support changing the rules to allow a president to get a vote on nominees to executive and most judicial positions. This is not about the ends, but means. Pursuing the nuclear option in this manner removes an important check on majority overreach which is central to our system of government. As Senator Vandenberg warned us, if a Senate majority decides to pursue its aims unrestrained by the rules, we will have sacrificed a professed vital principle for the sake of momentary gain.”

Levin, who is retiring in 2015 after six terms, reminded his colleagues of what then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) said during the GOP-era debate: “The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play. It’s the one thing this country stands for. Not tilting the playing field on the side of those who control and own the field.”

Pryor, who faces a re-election fight in 2014, said the use of the nuclear option “could permanently damage the Senate and have negative ramifications for the American people.”

“During my time in the Senate, I’ve played key roles in the Gang of 14 and other bipartisan coalitions to help us reach common-sense solutions that both sides of the aisle can support,” Pryor said. “This institution was designed to protect—not stamp out—the voices of the minority.”

Manchin said he’d proposed a compromise that would require “greater consideration for nominees whose posts outlasted the president.”

“I was willing to support modest changes to make the system more efficient, but my proposal was rejected,” he said. “I voted against the rules changes today because they simply went too far. I firmly believe that the filibuster is a vital protection of the minority views and exactly why the framers of our Constitution made the Senate the ‘cooling saucer.’”

Most Dems hailed the move, with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) praising Reid on the floor “for leading us into the 21st century.”

“I’ve waited 18 years for this moment,” Harkin giddily added.

The rules change applies to nominees, not legislation, though Obama mingled that into his statement praising what Reid did — raising a more realistic threat of the nuclear option on hot-button issues where Reid has threatened to use it in the past.

“It’s no secret that the American people have probably never been more frustrated with Washington, and one of the reasons why that is, is that over the past five years we’ve seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that’s prevented too much of the American people’s business from getting done,” he said in the press briefing room this afternoon, blaming “arcane procedural tactics” for why Americans are so unhappy.

Obama charged that Republicans have “blocked legislation that might create jobs,” help “women fighting for equal pay” and “striving young immigrants trying to earn citizenship,” and pass “common-sense” gun-control laws in a way that’s “harmful to our democracy.”

“A simple majority vote no longer seems to be sufficient for anything, even routine business through what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body,” he said. “Today’s pattern of obstruction, it just isn’t normal… for the sake of future generations we can’t let it become normal.”

“Public service is not a game. It is a privilege. And the consequences of action or inaction are very real. The American people deserve better than politicians who run for election telling them how terrible government is and then devoting their time in elected office to trying to make government not work as often as possible.”

The rules change comes in time to help Obama get his Fed chief nominee, Janet Yellen, through the Senate as an increasing number of lawmakers have been coming out against her confirmation — including, this afternoon, Manchin.

It also will help move forward the president’s Federal Housing Finance Agency nominee Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.), who didn’t clear a 60-vote cloture threshold late last month, and Department of Homeland Security nominee Jeh Johnson.

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Top Rated Comments   
OK progressive - you *have* the Senate. For now. How about in 2017 when a new president is sworn in and you no longer control the Senate - care to imagine what 'nuclear option' the next senate leader may take to get that supreme court nominee into their robes?

Deliberative body? Not when the game is war. And the progressives have just declared it openly.

Turnabout baby - its fair play. And our time will come - maybe sooner than you'd like.

And good luck getting anything from the Senate passed in the House in the next few years. Zero can only write so many executive orders - and they had better be based on constitutional law. It may only take 51 votes in the senate to impeach his ass in 2015.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
“This changes everything, this changes everything,” McCain told reporters, adding that the nuclear option “puts a chill on the entire United States Senate.”

If it weren't for spineless, weak kneed, clowns like McCain, McConnel, Grahm, Rubio and others, this move by reid would not have happened. These guys have reached across the isle to many times. Vote the bumbs out....
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Democrats will want to change it back when they become the minority the end of next year.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (21)
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Obama lie and deceit number 408! This is what Mr. Levin was railing against.
A bit long, worth the read to find out what's REALLY goin' on!
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” will cause a tectonic shift in our nation! Everything from:1) interpretation of our Constitution;2) legality of Barack Obama’s executive orders; 3) gun control; 4)climate change and finally; 4)immigration mandates President Obama already has instigated through various federal agencies. All these will now unfold very, very quickly.
Reid’s use of a simple majority vote instead of 60 votes, in existence since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Senate Chambers’ original rules, is one of the greatest assaults on the function of United States Senate since Thomas Jefferson wrote the Senior Chamber’s original rules…opening the doors for an unprecedented advance of President Obama’s leftist agenda in ways experts are just beginning to project. For example:
1)This rule change allows the Senate ending debate on Barack Obama’s judicial and agency nominees with a simple majority rather than the prior rule of 60 votes, thus ends the minority party’s ability to filibuster radical nominations.
2)Having key adherents in place in the federal courts and in leadership roles of federal agencies, along with a compliant Senate, makes Barack Obama’s radical agenda VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE to stop.
a.He has expanded Executive Branches power; b. now dominates the Senate; c.and has seized key components of USA’s judicial branch! This subverts everything our founding fathers outlined in the Constitution, i.e., separation of three branches of government… ALL NOW dominated by America’s Executive branch.
The most immediate effect will be felt at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Widely regarded as second only to the Supreme Court in influence, it plays a central role in upholding or knocking down federal regulations. ‘It shifts the court quite substantially to the left,’ said Amanda Cohen Leiter, a law professor at American University… it will take years to undo Obama’s stacking of the courts as many of his judicial nominees are appointed for lifetime terms.
White House operatives and their allies said they have yet to finalize plans to push through another 186 executive nominees and 50 judicial nominees now stuck in the Senate. Reid says he plans to start introducing Obama’s nominees immediately after the Thanksgiving break.
Folks, with 50 new left-leaning judicial nominees and 189 executive nominees being ramrodded through the Senate, Barack Obama will not have to get ANY agenda passed by Congress, or even be concerned if it fails!
Now, with Reid’s rule changes, Obama will be able to mandate his will through federal agencies on issues like:1) stricter gun control, 2)financial reform, 3)climate change regulation, 4)immigration amnesty programs, and 5)pro-homosexual marriage laws.
If the lawfulness of a federal mandate gets challenged, the case simply goes to D.C.’s Circuit Court, now tilted heavily to the left.
Then, 50 more judges will soon take their seats in courtrooms all across these USA in advancement (state-by-state) of Obama’s new scheme. Still not convinced this is a tyranny? HAH! Think again! Pray. Amen. God Bless America. Join a Tea Party, urgently...or lose America forever.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This action essentially converts America to a simple democracy ruled by majority vote.
The Founding Fathers set up the U.S. to avoid majority rule.
The U.S. Constitution has been vitiated.
Welcome to Germany, 1933.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
To me, this signals weakness on the left. They wouldn't be doing this if they thought they were going to gain seats, or even retain a majority, so they are trying to get as much past the finish line as they can before their terms run out.

The problem they are going to run into is, this is a sword that cuts both ways.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No coincidence this happened around the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, who warned about the increase in the power of secret societies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Single payer? Try Single Party.
Going for all the marbles now, ala Venezuela.
Ain't gonna be no "when we retake" any-thing.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm betting that in November of 2014, after the election has shifted the balance of power, but before any of the newly elected Republican Senators are seated and able to vote, the residual Democrat majority in the Senate will suddenly decide that the new rule is a bad idea and will vote to reverse it. Anyone want to take the other side?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We are one step closer to Civil War or a dark tyranny that will enslave all in this age and for many generations to come. Don't think when the Dems are in the minority they'll regret this action. Rather think the Dems did this because they are intent upon single party rule forever. They believe they can completely control the election process henceforth. Who defends against election fraud? Holder's AG office? Who decides your civil rights are violated? The court system about to be stuffed with Dem ideologues? Ideologues intent upon keeping the formerly free American citizen enslaved by their 'opinions' of the law, as much as we are being impoverished and are having our wealth drained away by inserting $Trillions into the markets in fiat money, worthless paper in a rigged financial and increasingly fascist market system, kept constantly poor and even limited to 30 hours or less of work, to be punished by militarized police departments who if you protest the tyranny of government, can imprison you indefinitely without habeas corpus by simply calling you a terrorist. Denied health care by the simple measure of limiting your access to health insurance of your choice and eventually government control of all aspects of the healthcare system. Kept ignorant by controlling the press which is already turning obvious blatant lies by our government into truths along with having thuggish adherents ready to beat up anyone who denies the party line, ala Iran, or "this is for Trayvon". Kept stupid by imposing Common Core on all students, a curriculum well marinated with political group think of the worst kind. Denied the right to share religious or social values except those approved by the state starting with denying Christian chaplains from worshipping Jesus in our military and denying access to same by our military. Orwell was right, except it's no longer a novel but a frightening reality. Time is running out. If the American public doesn't wake up soon to this mortal threat and resist even unto death before slavery, they'll wake up to a state more akin to Zimbabwe, North Korea, or Iran than the America where freedom from government tyranny was once the ideal.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Mr. president, your democracy is harming our republic!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yet another "change we can believe in"? The US Senate is forever changed.. and not in a good way.

Whether Democrat or Republican, any and all true Americans will be disgusted and disturbed by Reid's action and that of those who supported him, including the President.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Hey Harry Gump. Enjoy it next year as Senate Minority Leader. Have Fun you spineless, character-less, criminal Twit!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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