The Senate Is On The Verge Of Going 'Nuclear' — Here's What That Means

Harry Reid Mitch McConnellWhat Mitch McConnell’s campaign tweeted out last week.

The Senate appears closer than ever to undertaking the so-called “nuclear option” on Tuesday.

After a 3.5-hour, unusual closed-door meeting on Monday night, the Senate did not have a deal to avert the “nuclear option” that would lead to significant rules changes in voting on President Barack Obama’s executive nominees. 

What will change if the “nuclear option” is invoked later this morning?

Practically, not much. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is carrying out the fight strictly on behalf of seven of Obama’s executive nominees whose confirmations he says have been unfairly delayed by  the Senate GOP.

The change would reduce the threshold for confirming agency and Cabinet nominees to 51 votes, rather than the 60-vote threshold now in place. It would have no bearing on rules for passing actual legislation — or even in confirming judicial appointments. 

“He’s going to defend the status quo,” Reid said Sunday of McConnell. “Is there anyone out there in the real world that believes that what’s going on in the Congress of the United States is good? Our approval rating is lower than North Korea’s. It is really, really difficult.”

But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others have warned, in essence, that enacting the “nuclear option” is a slippery slope that could pave the way for future usage in future administrations — potentially using the “nuclear option” to inflict change on passing legislation or judicial appointments.

A Senior Democratic aide confirmed that there will be no deal unless Republicans go along in confirming all seven of the held-up nominees.

The first vote to watch will come around 11 a.m., when Reid will bring up the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans have blocked every possible nominee to the agency since its creation. He is one of two nominees Obama appointed, controversially, when the Senate was in recess in January 2012. Reid uses him as the symbol of Democrats’ frustration in getting Obama’s nominees passed.

“Do they have an objection against Richard Cordray, his qualifications?” Reid told a crowd Monday during an appearance at the centre for American Progress.

“Of course not. … He was attorney general for the state of Ohio. There’s nothing wrong with his qualifications. They just don’t like his job. They don’t like someone whose job, based on legislation that we passed and is signed into law, who takes a look for the consumer against the greed that happens on occasion in Wall Street.”

The other six nominees: 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.

Democrats’ argument here 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.

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