Harry Reid Is Threatening A 'Nuclear Option' To Dramatically Change The Senate Rules — Here's What That Means

Harry Reid

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) went back and forth on the Senate floor Thursday in what served as the most heated floor debate in quite some time.

The two were arguing over Reid and other Democratic leaders’ inclination to dramatically change Senate rules because of what they feel is unfair and unprecedented blocking of executive branch nominees.

Reid filed cloture on seven nominees Thursday, setting up votes next week on the nominees. That is when the showdown will come. 

Reid’s game is to see whether Republicans will filibuster these nominees. If they do, he said that Democrats are prepared to enact the so-called “nuclear option,” which would reduce the threshold for confirming agency and Cabinet nominees to 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote threshold now in place.

Reid said that Democrats’ ultimatum came over seven executive nominees: Richard Cordray to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; Fred Hochberg to chair the Export-Import Bank; Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency; Tom Perez to be labour Secretary, and three Democratic nominees for the National labour Relations Board. 

“If they’re not willing to be reasonable,” Reid told reporters Thursday afternoon of Republicans, “we know where we’re headed.”

Democrats’ argument is simple: Filibustering executive nominations has been rare all the way back to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. President Obama, meanwhile, has already had 16 nominees filibustered: almost twice the amount of Bill Clinton, who is next on the list with nine.

Filibustered nominees

McConnell was not happy. He said that if Reid doesn’t stop with his inclination to change the Senate rules, he would go down as the “worst Majority Leader ever.” He also cautioned that the rules change would be inscribed on Reid’s “tombstone.”

“This is a dark day in the Senate. We’ve witnessed the majority leader break his word,” McConnell said Thursday afternoon on the floor. 

Harry Reid Mitch McConnell

Here’s what McConnell’s re-election campaign tweeted out amid the debate Thursday afternoon:

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.