Reid Threatens Filibuster Reform With Nuclear Option

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) threatened in his most explicit terms yet to use the so-called nuclear option to weaken the filibuster if Republicans keep blocking judicial and other nominees from coming to a vote.

“All within the sound of my voice — including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with — should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority,” Reid told Nevada Public Radio in a little-noticed interview Friday. “And I will do that if necessary.”Reid said he had recently spoken with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Obama to review their options, and then issued his ultimatum to Republicans: stop your relentless filibusters or the Democratic majority will strip away your power to do so.

“I’m a very patient man,” he said. “We made changes but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case. If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges, and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”

The remarks — which come ahead of a confirmation hearing for Obama’s latest nominee to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Sri Srinivasan — represent Reid’s most pointed threat to revisit filibuster reform after the modest rules change enacted in January that preserved the 60-vote threshold. Contrary to a popular misconception, Senate leadership has the power to change the rules in the middle of a congressional session with a bare majority of votes.

Reid said the problem is “not judicial nominees only,” citing GOP filibusters of a director to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama’s backup option has been to recess-appoint directors on an interim basis, but the conservative-leaning D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled to vastly limit that power.

“So we’re left with few alternatives,” Reid told Nevada Public Radio. “And we’re going to have to move forward and do something to change that.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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