Today Majority Leader Reid pushed the Senate to eliminate filibusters on judicial and cabinet-level appointments. Reid offered for a vote the rule of the chair which would have preserved the right to filibuster these nominees. The Senate voted it down in a 48-52 vote, thus implementing the so-called “nuclear option.” All Democratic senators voted “nay” on maintaining the rules, with the exception of Senators Pryor (Ark.), Manchin (W.V.), and Levin (Mich.).
The threat of a nuclear option has hung over the Senate for years now, and the trend has been that the majority party offers blustery warnings that it will implement it while the minority party decries the move as unconstitutional at worst, unsportsmanlike at best. Reid has been on both sides of the argument, in 2005 decrying Republican threats to drop the 60-vote threshold for cloture as “un-American.” Reid’s reasoning in forcing the change now is that Republican efforts to block presidential nominees have rendered the Senate “obsolete” and that the opposition to nominees stems not from the qualifications of the candidates, but from the fact that they are the president’s picks. Reid characterizes this as unprecedented.
It’s worth nothing that Senator Reid has a substantial record of “unprecedented” obstruction of his own. Most notably the Senate failed to pass a budget during four years of his leadership. During the Bush presidency, Reid played a major part in ensuring that only a fraction of that president’s nominees were confirmed.
Reid’s decision was met with the endorsement of the White House—President Obama and Vice President Biden, Senate alumni both, support the move to diminish the power of the filibuster.