Harry Reid went and did it. He bent the rules to break them. In so doing, he effectively annihilated hundreds of years of procedural convention that has required a firm 60-vote majority to confirm presidential appointments.
Now, the president’s executive branch and judicial nominees can slide through with a simple majority. Any opposition will prove toothless. This changes everything.
To put things in perspective, our friend Dan McCarthy at the American Conservative estimates this is the “biggest change to the institutional character of the Senate since the ratification of the 17th Amendment.” That might be an understatement. The conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues on the Hill imply that this is the single greatest revocation of the minority party’s deliberative rights in American history.
Yet for all the atomic analogies, the issue that prompted Reid’s decision may appear banal. The Majority Leader went nuclear over the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and three relatively low-profile nominees.