Harry Reid Threatens To Revisit ‘Nuclear Option’ On Filibuster Rules

In his first remarks after the July 4 holiday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on Monday threatened to revisit the so-called nuclear option to make further changes to the filibuster rules.

He launched a broadside on the GOP’s ongoing efforts to “put up roadblock after roadblock” in the confirmation of nominees. Republicans have used up maximum debate time for most nominees to delay a final confirmation vote, even those who are ultimately confirmed with broad or unanimous support.

“We changed some of the rules. We didn’t change that,” Reid said of the Senate’s November rules change that required a simple majority to confirm all nominees except the Supreme Court. “If they’re going to continue this, maybe we’ll have to take another look at that. Just, it’s outrageous what they’ve done.”

What Reid is threatening here is a further weakening of the filibuster by limiting the minority’s ability to force lengthy debates on nominations. Existing rules allow for up to 30 hours of debate on cabinet nominations and circuit judges, and 8 hours on sub-cabinet nominations.

“They can stall for many, many hours,” he said. “There’s no other way to look at what they’re doing. This is obstruction for obstruction’s sake.”

Reid said Republicans are throwing a “temper tantrum” because they’re still upset that President Barack Obama handily won reelection. “They’re doing this to make the president look bad, make us look bad,” he said. “It’s to run out the clock.”

The Democratic leader’s remarks come as 145 nominations are pending on the Senate calendar, and control of the chamber is up for grabs in the Nov. 4 elections. Democrats fear that Republicans could grind Obama’s executive and judicial nominees to a halt if they win the majority. Progressive advocates have been urging him to change the rules again and limit debate time to make sure Obama nominees with majority support in the Senate can be confirmed quickly.

Reid said on Monday the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is “playing a very dangerous game at the expense of this country.”

In May, Obama took the unusual step of weighing in on the debate, calling on the Senate to change “how a filibuster works.”

(Photo credit: AP, edited by TPM’s Christopher O’Driscoll)