Several dozen House lawmakers formally called on Senate leaders to use the nuclear option to force a vote on the Iran nuclear deal.
If the 60-vote threshold to pass cloture was dropped, Senate Democrats’ filibuster would fall apart.
Harry Reid (D-Nev.), when majority leader of the Senate, dropped the “nuclear option” bomb in November 2013 to get President Obama’s nominees through on a simple majority vote.
The current majority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has yet to reciprocate.
The House letter sent this week to both McConnell and Reid states: “As Members of the House of Representatives, we respectfully urge the Senate to modify its rules to a majority vote threshold of 51 senators to approve some legislation. Some pieces of legislation, like the Iran nuclear deal, are simply so consequential that they demand revisions to the Senate’s procedures.”
“…Our request to eliminate the filibuster for some votes simply underscores that in a democracy the majority should decide. The super-majority now required to advance legislation is 60 votes, which is not serving our country well.”
Signatories include several House chairmen, including Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-Texas), Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas).
Science, Space & Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) announced on the House floor this week that he was circulating the letter among his colleagues.
“Republicans need to go on offense and set the agenda. The future of America is being held hostage by a few Democrats in the Senate. It is time to restore the fundamental principle of democracy-the majority rules. The Obama administration is using the filibuster to torture the Constitution, undermine the rule of law and ignore the will of the people,” Smith said.
“…A bad Iran nuclear deal merits the use of the Senate’s so-called nuclear option. I respect the separate rules and role of the Senate and do not advocate this change for every small matter. But for the sake of American national security interests we must place every available option on the table to stop this bad Iran deal.”
Obama praised the nuclear option when Reid dropped the bomb, stating Republicans’ reticence on his nominees “isn’t obstruction on substance, on qualifications. It’s just to gum up the works.”
There are still not enough votes in the Senate to override Obama’s promised veto. Using the nuclear option now would put both chambers on the record as opposing the nuclear deal.
The filibuster, meanwhile, shields Obama from having to wield his veto pen.
During last night’s “happy hour” GOP presidential debate, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal challenged Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on using the nuclear option to “stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power.”
“Now is the time for the Senate Republicans to stand up and fight. We are tired of the establishment saying there’s nothing we can do,” Jindal said. “We won the Senate. We won the House. What was the point of winning those chambers if we’re not going to do anything with them? You’re going back tonight. You still have time before the Thursday deadline. Will y’all use the nuclear option to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power?”
“If we pass the Cardin bill, Graham, Menendez, it would go to the president. He would veto it. 67 votes are required to override the veto,” Graham replied. “So I don’t want to take off the table the ability to slow down Obama in his last 13 to 14 months, because I want 60 votes to stop what I think he’s going to do between now and January 2017. Five Republicans defect — leave — we’re in trouble.”
“So folks, the world really is the way it is. President Obama is president. The goal is to get him out of there and pick somebody who would actually do something to repeal Obamacare, who would get you a better agreement. So Bobby, he would veto the bill, we don’t have 67 votes, and you’re giving away a defense against Obama for the rest of his presidency.”