Sen. Harry Reid is threatening Senate Republicans with the nuclear option if they don’t negotiate with Democrats on filibuster reform:
A coalition of liberal groups met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA) shortly after Obama won reelection to set strategy for advancing his second-term agenda. One of the primary goals emerging from the meeting was enacting filibuster reform.
Senate Democrats debated how to proceed during a lunch meeting that stretched for more than an hour Tuesday — and left the room with little resolved.
Reid has begun to show signs of impatience with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), with whom he has been negotiating for weeks. He said Tuesday that he and McConnell have made progress, but added, “[W]e’ve got a long way to go.”
The Nevada Democrat said he would give Republicans another 24 to 36 hours to agree to filibuster reform and then trigger the so-called nuclear option. This controversial tactic would allow him to change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote.
“I hope within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that,” Reid told reporters.
Although its use has been threatened in the past to spur the minority party to agree to reforms, the nuclear option has never been used to change the standing rules, say parliamentary experts.
The move isn’t popular with so-called “moderate” Democrats:
Reid, however, has received pushback from senior and centrist Democrats such as Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), who are not fond of the nuclear option.
“I have not favored that approach. I have a lot of troubles with the nuclear option for the same reasons as then-Sen. Kennedy and then-Sen. Biden and a lot of senators have had with amending the rules by majority vote when the rules call for two-thirds vote,” Levin said in reference to former Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Vice President Biden, who served 36 years in the Senate.
“I have expressed very major concerns with using the constitutional option,” Levin added, using a term favored by Merkley and Udall, who argue the Constitution empowers the majority leader to set the Senate’s rules on the first day of a new Congress.
Feinstein has also weighed in, hampering Reid’s leverage in talks with McConnell.
“I would hope that we wouldn’t have to use the nuclear option. I would hope that the two parties can agree, and there’s some indication that that might happen,” she said.
What’s amazing is not the use of the nuclear option, but the idea of changing the filibuster rules. This is an instance of Reid being against it before he was for it: