In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.
Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.
The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.
The Democratic leader had become fed up with Republican demands for votes on motions to suspend the rules after the Senate had voted to limit debate earlier in the day.
McConnell had threatened such a motion to force a vote on the original version of President Obama’s jobs package, which many Democrats don’t like because it would limit tax deductions for families earning over $250,000. The jobs package would have been considered as an amendment.
McConnell wanted to embarrass the president by demonstrating how few Democrats are willing to support his jobs plan as first drafted.
Democrats Invoke ‘Nuclear Option’ in Senate
The argument originally started on the Senate floor tonight over the China currency bill, which ironically enough enjoys bipartisan support. Earlier Thursday it received 79 votes on one procedural motion and 62 votes – two more than necessary – to cut off debate.
But Republicans sought to add as amendments to the China currency bill two measures on which Democrats did not want to vote – one was on the President’s jobs bill, which they hope to change, and another was from Senator Mike Johanns, R-NE., to block EPA rules on farm dust.
When McConnell would not give up on seeking votes for the two unrelated bills, Reid used the nuclear option. Reid said that the Senate must have the ability to move forward with bills that have broad bipartisan support.
Reid said that unlimited motions to suspend the rules could lead to a filibuster. So in the end the Senate voted on appealing the ruling of the Senate parliamentarian, and won. This created the new precedent allowing the majority to cut off motions to suspend as dilatory, ie: wasteful.
Some folks on the Right are glad Reid changed the rules as it ultimately will help a GOP Majority repeal Obama Care
Conservatives no longer need worry about holding 60 senate seats after the 2012 election to save America.
The Democrats have paved the way for easy repeal of ObamaCare and major reductions in the size of government by breaking decades of precedent and changing the rules by majority vote.
There can be no more excuses for moderates to be moderate. The cooling saucer is no more and given the desperate times we live in, that’s a good thing.