Thursday, November 21, 2013

Nuclear Option

At the Los Angeles Times, "Senate Democrats invoke 'nuclear option' on filibusters":

WASHINGTON — Democrats made a historic change to Senate rules Thursday, ending the minority party's ability to use filibusters to block most presidential nominations and, in the process, virtually guaranteeing that the rest of President Obama's term will be dominated by executive actions and court battles rather than legislation.

In changing the long-standing rules with a near party-line vote in the middle of the session, Democrats brushed aside a century of congressional tradition and further embittered relations between the parties on an already deadlocked Capitol Hill.

The Senate Republican minority, which will see its power dramatically curtailed, threatened reprisals and characterized the rule change as a political power grab, comparing it to Obama's push to pass the landmark Affordable Health Care act in 2010 without bipartisan support.

The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to deploy the so-called nuclear option means Senate confirmations of presidential appointments — except for Supreme Court justices — will proceed by a simple majority vote. Previously, a 60-vote threshold had become the norm to avoid a filibuster by the minority party. The change does not affect filibusters on legislation.

Over the years, Democrats and Republican have used filibusters to block nominations, but the practice became much more common in recent years.

"I realize that neither party has been blameless for these tactics," Obama said Thursday in supporting the rule change. "They've developed over years, and it seems as if they've continually escalated. But today's pattern of obstruction — it just isn't normal. A majority of senators believe, as I believe, that enough is enough."

Only three Democrats — Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Carl Levin of Michigan — joined Republicans in the 48-52 vote...
Continue reading. The rest of the piece explains how the rule-chang passed and how the Obama White House expects to govern by executive fiat over the remainder of the term.

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