WASHINGTON — In a historic move, Democrats in the
After threatening to change the rules several times this year, the Democratic majority pulled the trigger on the so-called nuclear option after a series of procedural maneuvers that played out before a packed chamber. It would allow a president's nominees, except for seats on the Supreme Court, to be confirmed by a simple majority, rather than the 60-vote threshold that had become the norm.
Fifty-two senators voted in favor of the changes, with 48 voting in opposition.
Just three Democrats — red-state Sens.
Senate Majority Leader
More broadly, he argued that the Senate threatened to become "obsolete" if it did not act to end gridlock.
“The gridlock has consequences,” he said in opening the debate. “It’s not only bad for President
Reid acknowledged that neither party's hands were "clean" in the fight. When Democrats were in the minority nearly two decades ago, they fiercely resisted a Republican attempt to make the same rule change Democrats implemented Thursday.
But times had changed, he argued.
"Can anyone say that the Senate is working now?" he asked. "I don't think so."
“It doesn’t distract people from Obamacare, it reminds them of Obamacare,” Senate Minority Leader
Republicans also argued that Democrats were "breaking the rules to change the rules," by using a simple majority vote rather than a two-thirds vote, as Senate rules state. Democrats believe they are on firm footing, however, since the Constitution allows the Senate to make or change its own rules at any time.
The unprecedented action injected unusual drama into the historic Senate chamber. At one point Sen.
In the short term, the Democrats’ action paves the way for the confirmation of Obama’s three pending appointments to the important D.C. Circuit court, beginning with
The long-term consequences are less clear. The Democrats’ move amounts to a gamble that Republicans will not regain both the
Looming more immediately is a possible vacancy on the