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Might ‘Nuclear Option’ Extend to Legislation as Well as Nominees?

GOPs insist that further action against the filibuster — which can be achieved by a simple majority — places minority rights at further risk.

by
Bill Straub

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November 30, 2013 - 7:01 pm
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WASHINGTON – Senate Republicans are concerned the chamber’s majority Democrats may attempt to further expand their power beyond the move to exempt most judicial and executive branch confirmation votes from attempted filibusters.

That step taken by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, frustrated by GOP efforts to block the nominations of President Obama’s selections to fill three vacancies on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, extends the tyranny of the majority over the minority, several lawmakers maintain, and may encourage Democrats to strip the utilization of filibusters on legislative actions as well.

“The rule change itself is less important than the manner in which it was imposed,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), ranking member on the Senate Rules Committee. “Now that the majority has decided it can set the rules, there is no limit to what it or any future majority might do in the future. There are no constraints. The majority claims these changes are necessary to make the Senate function. If it decides further changes are needed, it will make them. The minority will have no voice, no say, no power. That has never been the case in the Senate–never.”

“Until now,” he said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) agreed, maintaining the rule change is “the most important and most dangerous restructuring of the rules of the Senate since Thomas Jefferson wrote the rules at the founding of our country.”

The action, Alexander said, “creates a perpetual opportunity for the tyranny of the majority because it permits a majority in this body to do whatever it wants to do anytime it wants to do it.” The change represents “another example of the use of raw partisan political power for the majority to do whatever it wants to do any time it wants to do it.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) called it a “drastic move” that “sets a dangerous precedent that could later be expanded to speed passage of expansive and controversial legislation.”

“If Democrats think that they deserve more power, they should earn it from voters at the polls in 2014,” Shelby said, adding, “make no mistake; today’s power grab is just the beginning.”

Minority use of the filibuster has long stuck in the craw of majority lawmakers who view it as an obstructionist tool. They note that the rule blocked civil rights legislation from being taken up in the upper chamber for years before a successful effort to overcome its implementation resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Until Nov. 21, under Senate rules, a senator or a group of senators could delay consideration of any bill or nomination unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” — usually 60 of the chamber’s 100 members – concludes debate through a process known as cloture. If cloture is invoked, a debate and vote on the matter at hand ensues.

Filibusters have become increasingly frequent over the decades as the two parties have grown more partisan. Reid and others have pointed out that there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations throughout history — half of them have occurred during the Obama administration. That ultimately led Reid, who has long opposed filibuster reform, to seek a change in the rules, excluding use of the filibuster to delay consideration of nominees but permitting its continued usage on legislative matters before the Senate.

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All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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Now that the Senate has ruled, when does President Sulla start Proscribing?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I find myself wondering, given that it was done against the Senate rules, is there a way for a future Senate to nullify everything that this Senate does?

It would be an ironic capstone to this if Reid has managed to lose both the filibuster, and all of the appointees that they broke it to appoint.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
For a while, I looked for the dope on what procedures were used to pass the rule change, and found nothing. Do You Have a Source?
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
How was it done against Senate rules? The rules say that a majority vote can change the rules.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, you know what that means. When the current democratic Senate packs the Supreme court this year, some future republican Senate will just unpack the Supreme court. Life time appointments you object? Not if the Supreme Court bench is reduced in number by congress from nine to five, with demotions to lower courts based on reverse seniority. And then the next year enlarge the bench to eighteen and pack it with conservatives. Sweet. No sense being a banana republic without a banana republic judiciary.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Nice idea, but we all know that a GOP majority wouldn't do it. They would roll over at the first hint of opposition and put RINOs and Libs in.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Are the Democrats that stupid or power hungry? Of course they are. One thing for sure is that payback, when it happens, will be really ugly.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ugly? No. A GOP majority will not do what the Libs did. We all know the GOP is spineless.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Liked" for the amusement. Most likely, though, they will make a theater stink about it if they get control, but will Not do anything which conservatives and constitutionalists would like them to do.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
Get rid of the fillibuster and repeal the 17th Amendment. That should put the brakes on out of control Federal Government.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wrong. This got rid of (part of) the filibuster, which is a bigger-better brake than was lost by the 17th.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
“Most Americans grew up believing that in America the majority rules,” Sanders said.

This goes to show that Sanders either has no understanding of this federal republic and the intentions of the Founders or he is no longer so afraid to wear his Communist colors. Either way, he needs to be put out to pasture.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
It says he is familiar with the teachings of public schools and the media.
50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I guess since the GOP figures they will be a permanent minority, they should be worried.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course it will. As Pat Caddell says, Obama plans to rule by fiat. For that, he needs a supine Senate, particularly on treaties and stopping Republican House efforts to block his legislation.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yep. That's why is was appropriately called the nuclear option. It really and truly does blow up the Senate. Now, Democrats are going to continue to do EXACTLY what they did before the pulled the trigger. They will constantly threaten to do away with more filibuster power if they don't get their way and conservatives don't stop "obstructing". And one day, they will when they feel like it, do away with more filibuster precedents, when it suits them. Don't doubt it. The precedent has been set. http://freedomlinks.wordpress.com/
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
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