From the Vault: Senate Democrats invoke the nuclear option in 2013

From the Vault: Senate Democrats invoke the nuclear option in 2013


GWEN IFILL: Are we seeing the end of the filibuster
or the beginning of the end? PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: (From tape.) Today’s pattern of obstruction, it just
isn’t normal. It’s not what our founders envisioned. MS. IFILL: Democrats play a little hardball. SENATOR HARRY REID (D-NV) [Senate Majority
Leader]: (From tape.) It’s time to change. It’s time to change the Senate before this
institution becomes obsolete. MS. IFILL: Blowing up Senate rules to get the
president’s nominees confirmed. SENATOR LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN): (From tape.) It’s really not about the filibuster. It’s another raw exercise of political power
to permit the majority to do anything it wants, whenever it wants to do it. MS. IFILL: A breakthrough or a breakdown? MS. IFILL: Good evening. It’s quiet in Washington tonight, but there
are echoes here from a tumultuous week. We begin in the Senate, where the biggest
debate was about finding a way to end debate. SEN. REID: (From tape.) The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is
broken. And I believe the American people are right. MS. IFILL: Senate Democrats infuriated the Republican
minority by pulling the pin on a long-threatened grenade – changing the rules that require
a 60-vote majority to confirm presidential nominees. SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) [Senate Minority
Leader]: (From tape.) They believe that one set of rules should
apply to them – to them and another set to everybody else. He may as just as well have said, if you like
the rules of the Senate, you can keep them. If you like the rules of the Senate, you can
keep them. MS. IFILL: That was very lively from Mitch McConnell. SUSAN DAVIS: That was a big laugh line in
the Senate this week. MS. IFILL: How long was this in the works? It seems like it’s suddenly – after years
of talking about the nuclear option, all of a sudden, there it was. MS. DAVIS: I think if you were paying close attention
to the Senate, there was a sense of inevitability to this. You kind of knew it was coming. The most recent – what sort of – the final
straw in all this was a recent fight over D.C. Circuit Court nominations. This has been sort of in the works for weeks. Each one of these three qualified nominees
were filibustered by Republicans. All the while, Harry Reid was warning them
that if they keep doing this, he’s going to finally go nuclear. If you’ve paid attention to the Senate longer,
the filibuster has been contentious for most of modern history. The last time they changed the rules was in
the 1970s. The threshold used to be 67 votes. Then they moved it to 60. Democrats today said that is still too high
of a bar. If you – supporters of changing it call
it the constitutional option, saying that any president, which Democrats were quick
to focus on this week – not just President Obama, all future presidents – now have
a stronger prerogative to be able to fill the government with the people that they want
to work for them. And that seems like a very basic thing to
support. On the downside, there is something called
minority rights, which is sort of what makes the United States Senate the United States
Senate, and which gives each senator sort of an equal amount of importance in the chamber. The idea that any of them can gum up the works
is sort of what makes it a special place. Now the Democrats have said, majority rule
can change the rules of the Senate and that, in such a significant way changes the way
this chamber is going to work. MARTHA RADDATZ: So, Sue, what does it look
forward – the Supreme Court, what does it mean for the Supreme Court nominees? MS. DAVIS: Well, that’s one of the big questions. And part of the reason why they didn’t go
nuclear, why they always walked up to the line and walked back was this idea that you
could go too far. They drew the line, but what they did was
it only changes executive nominations, people like cabinet officials and all judges but
the Supreme Court. But it’s the slippery-slope argument. And this is what Republicans warned this week. They said if you open this box, if you open
this Pandora’s Box, you are changing the game by which any future majority can change
those rules. Democrats have said they don’t intend to
change the rules for Supreme Court nominees, but in two years and four years and six years? It is certainly a possibility at this point. JAMES KITFIELD: When there’s been problems
in the past, the thing that always make people step back was, well, you’re going to be
minority sooner or later and then it’s going to work against you. And that kind of made – why this time did
the Democrats say, we don’t care? We know we’re going to be in the minority
and it’s going to come back and haunt us at some point, but right now we’re going
to do it? MS. DAVIS: What’s really interesting in the
Senate right now – and John McCain and other Republicans, more senior Republicans, more
senior Democrats – Carl Levin was a Democrat who voted against it – said most Democrats
serving right now don’t know what life in the majority is or in the minority is like. Thirty-three of 55 Senate Democrats have only
known the Senate in the majority. Carl Levin voted against it this week and
he said that very same thing is that you have to think of this as an institution and not
just as your personal prerogative right now. To think that – and Republicans have been
rather candid in saying, when we take over, and eventually we will take over, that we
are going – we have every right. Well, you’ve set this; you’ve set the
precedent that the majority can change the rules with just a majority vote. And Mitch McConnell said on the floor, it
may happen sooner than you think.

10 comments

  1. Well, here we are in 2017, and the Republicans are in power. They will likely use the nuclear option in their opposition to a possible filibuster of judge gorsuch. I don't think that anyone who after watching this video, wouldn't have at least some framework for understanding this modern crisis in its proper historical lens.

  2. Haha! Nothing like watching Libs drown in their own tears. They are not smart enough to understand that every decision has consequences. Now they reap what they sew. This is a great day for America! Wait until that old hag RBG keels over dead. Going to be a great day, MAGA, Trump 2020!!!!

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