Senate Democrats had no choice but to exercise nuclear option

Of all the warnings from Republicans of a national political crisis as a result of the Democratic-controlled Senate changing the filibuster rule, this one from Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky takes the cake:

“You think this is in the best interest of the United States Senate and the American people? I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

Does McConnell really think that the American people are so dumb as to be taken in by his fake nationalist fervor?

Why fake? Consider the following statement from the senator in October 2010, just a year and nine months after President Barack Obama took office:

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”

To accomplish that, Republicans not only in the Senate, but in the House, which they control, adopted obstructionism as their legislative strategy.

Thus, their no votes on important legislation designed to pull the country out of the economic recession that began as former Republican President George W. Bush was leaving office made clear the GOP’s strategy.

But their refusal to work with the White House didn’t stop with legislation.

Here’s how the New York Times described last week’s decision by the majority Democrats in the Senate to exercise the so-called nuclear option on the filibuster:

“It represented the culmination of years of frustration over what Democrats denounced as a Republican campaign to stall the machinery of Congress, stymie President Obama’s agenda, and block his picks to Cabinet posts and federal judgeships by insisting that virtually everything the Senate approves must be done by a supermajority.”

A supermajority is 60 votes, while the composition of the Senate is 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two independents who usually vote with the Democrats.

Although the two sides reached an agreement in July that paved the way for the long overdue confirmation of Richard Cordray, former attorney general of Ohio, as chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, it was clear that the GOP wasn’t about to relinquish the power it had to undermine President Obama.

McConnell and his colleagues were especially unwilling to let the president appoint federal judgeships, as is his constitutional right. They took the “advise and consent” provision to a level not seen in recent history.


The straw that broke the camel’s back was the Republicans’ refusal to let the Senate consider the president’s appointments to three seats on the most powerful appeals court in the land.

Even Democrats who had long opposed changing the filibuster rule were fed up with the refusal of the other side to consider the qualifications of the nominees.

Thus, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada called for a vote on the change that requires a simple majority to cut off debate on executive and judicial nominations, the count was 52 to 48.

Republicans have only themselves to blame for their minority rights being diluted. Their disdain for the president has blinded them to the damage being done to the country by their intransigence.

It is interesting to note that after Republicans swept statewide elections, winning an unprecedented number of governorships and legislatures, they justified the extremist agenda embraced by many state governments with this political saw: “Elections have consequences.”

However, on Capitol Hill, Republicans have refused to accept the election and re-election of Obama. Indeed, the extremists in the party have questioned the legitimacy of the voters who supported the president.

The change in the filibuster rule passed last week does not apply to legislation or Supreme Court nominations.

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.