What's The Deal With The Senate's Nuclear Option?

by Lane Florsheim

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-MV) moved to pursue a filibuster rule change so controversial, it has been termed the "nuclear option."

The option would prevent Republicans from being able to require a supermajority of 60 votes for the confirmation of presidential appointees to cabinet-level and other executive branch positions. Reid argues that Senate Republicans are abusing Senate rules in order to keep the nominations in question from posts in federal agencies.

“The place doesn’t work,” Reid said. “The American people know the dysfunction we have here. And all we’re asking is let the president have his team.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) fired back that if Sen. Reid went ahead with a rules change, he would go down in history as "the worst leader of the Senate ever."

Fighting words.

In a somewhat ironic twist, the revision would normally require 67 votes to pass—but Senate Dems think they've found a parliamentary loophole that would instead only require a simple majority of 51 votes.

Whether or not Sen. Reid's move is more about political posturing than anything else remains unclear. Reid said he would pull back from the rule change if Republicans confirm seven pending nominations of leaders for the Labor Department, the EPA, a consumer protection agency, and a labor law oversight board.