Harry Reid shocked Congress last night when, without warning, he deployed the so-called “nuclear option” to change the Senate’s rules. No, he didn’t get rid of the filibuster. He barred senators from (stay with us) making motions to suspend the rules, a move that allows them to propose and debate on non-germane amendments after a bill has already defeated a filibuster and moved to a final vote. The new rule passed 51-48 along partisan lines, though only after some heated conversations between some Democrats and Reid, Politico reports.
This is quite short-sighted of Senator Reid. One day the Democrats will be in the minority again - Republicans hope that happens in 2012 - and he will regret his ham-handed style.
The "nuclear option" is frequently threatened when the going gets tough in the Senate. In May, 2006, for example, the Republicans were in the majority and threatened to use it over judicial nominations that were held up by the Democrats - the "party of no" then. Reid lobbied mightily against the Republicans threat at that time on the Senate floor. He didn't want to be responsible for a huge embarrassment to be delivered to the president in the form of a bill that can't pass the Senate. Obama, after all, has been zipping around the country - to swing states, of course - at taxpayer's expense to make speeches about how the mean Republicans won't give him carte blanche and simply vote to pass any bad legislation he presents to Congress.
That was then, this is now.
In 2005, then Senator Joe Biden, a member of the Senate Judicial Committee, went to the Senate floor and made the statement that he "prayed to God" that the Democrats didn't make this move when they re-gained the majority.
He's probably singing a different tune today.
Senator Reid claims a modified version of President Obama's bill will come up for a vote next week. We'll see.