Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer, Harry Reid and Richard Durbin (from left) speak after Senate Democrats voted to take the bite out of the filibuster.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP
You thought things were bad in the Senate before? Well, they might have just gotten worse after Thursday’s vote by Democrats to significantly defang the filibuster on presidential nominations — the so-called nuclear option.
Senate Democrats took the historic step of voting to diminish the minority’s power to stall most presidential nominations. By changing the Senate rules to require a simple majority instead of a supermajority for most nominations to get the green light for a full floor vote, Democrats acted on a threat each party has aimed at the other for nearly a decade.
There was an element of the dog that caught the car in the whole affair. Now that it actually happened, neither Democrats or Republicans knew exactly what would happen next.
But it was safe to say it represented an escalation in the partisan wars dating back to the 1990s. And it threatened to make common ground even harder to find in an already badly divided government.
“It doesn’t make for a very healthy or helpful environment,” said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., as he left the Senate chamber Thursday, in what was a model of understatement.
“We have to wait and see what the reaction is and honestly I just don’t know what the reaction will be,” said Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho. “It’s very possible that things will be slowed down. But I don’t think major issues like the budget agreement would be stopped.”
The nuclear option as
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