The final details of the deal struck by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), which make only minor changes to the filibuster rules in the Senate, show why leading reformers are so disappointed in the outcome.
The new rules would permit a Senate majority to bypass the filibuster on a motion to proceed to debate with the condition that either a group of senators on each side of the aisle agrees, or the minority is guaranteed the chance to offer amendments.
The new rules limit debate time for sub-cabinet and district court nominations and reduces the number of required hours between cloture and final confirmation from 30 to two. It also lowers the number of cloture motions required to go to conference with the House.
HARRY REID SAVES THE FILIBUSTER! drudge.tw/WR4qFZ— DRUDGE REPORT (@DRUDGE_REPORT) January 24, 2013
Senate Filibuster Changes: More Evolution Than Revolution n.pr/TtjfSE— NPR News (@nprnews) January 24, 2013
Harkin stands by talking filibuster, might vote for leaders' deal bit.ly/14f5RTf— Floor Action (@flooraction) January 24, 2013
Showdown! Harry Reid '05 v Harry Reid '13 on changing Senate filibuster rules, vid: ow.ly/h5MC4— Tony Perkins (@tperkins) January 25, 2013
Filibuster Deal Restricts Senators’ Rights to Debate Judicial Nominees herit.ag/SJ4OrW— Heritage Foundation (@Heritage) January 25, 2013
After weeks of machinations, the US Senate is taking 1st roll call of 113th Congress to change/establish new rules on filibuster/cloture.— Annie Tin (@cspanannie) January 25, 2013
Long Live the Filibuster! j.mp/WRO6EO— Cato Institute (@CatoInstitute) January 25, 2013
In the before-there-was-Twitter department:
December 23, 2004 - The Senate’s looming nuclear winter, Salon.com
"If Republicans get away with changing the rules on judicial filibusters, decades of legal precedents are doomed."
April 7, 2005 - Absolute Power, Daily Kos
"Nuclear winter could come as early as this spring if Republicans follow through on their threats to launch the nuclear option. Republicans angered that Senate Democrats have rejected 10 of the President's 214 judicial nominees and desiring absolute power want to end a 200 year-old Senate right to engage in unlimited debate. They want to go 'nuclear' and turn the Senate into a rubber stamp for President Bush. They want to silence Senate Democrats - the one remaining check on President Bush's power. If they can do away with debate in the Senate, they can get whatever they want..."
April 11, 2005 - What's stopping nuclear winter?, Mother Jones
"Besides the continuing uproar over Tom DeLay, the John Bolton confirmation hearings, and the frenzied attacks on conservative judges, the other big news in Congress this week is whether or not the GOP is ever going to go through with its 'nuclear option' and strip the Democrats of their ability to filibuster judicial nominees."
May 18, 2005 - EXECUTIVE SESSION, Congressional Record
Sen. Specter: "We Republicans are threatening to employ the constitutional or nuclear option to require only a majority vote to end judicial filibusters. The Democrats are threatening to retaliate by stopping the Senate agenda on all matters except national security and homeland defense. Each ascribes to the other the responsibility for blowing up the place."
Sen. Reid: "I would ask my distinguished friend, the Republican leader, to consider joining with me and having, in the next day or so--hopefully today--have all of us retire to the Chamber and sit down and talk through this issue and see if there is a way we can resolve this short of this so-called nuclear option. I think it would be good for the body. I think it would be good for the American public to see we are able to sit down in the same room and work things out. ... It is noteworthy that today, as I speak, the Congressional Black Caucus is opposed to the nuclear option--unanimously opposed to it."
Sen. Leahy: "Hopefully everyone understands the significance of this debate and what the Republican leader, the majority leader is doing. He has decided to trigger the nuclear option. That is what it is. This nuclear option is something any Senate majority could have done any time over the past 50 years."
Sen. Reid to President Bush: We urge you to "make clear to Senate Republican leaders that you do not favor the so-called 'nuclear option' which would remove an important check on executive power."
Sen. Leahy: "This action that is being proposed to the Senate, the nuclear option, is a large step, a large abuse of power, a step with consequences we can only begin to imagine. It would be a vote for confrontation over consensus. I hope each of us will reflect on its consequences, and then, in the end, such a travesty will never befall the Senate."
Sen. Durbin: "We are debating an important constitutional principle of checks and balances. We are considering for the first time in over 200 years the so-called 'nuclear option' which will destroy one of the rules of the Senate which has been used so many times on so many occasions for so many different things."
Sen. Schumer: "We are on the precipice of a crisis, a constitutional crisis. The checks and balances which have been at the core of this Republic are about to be evaporated by the nuclear option, the checks and balances which say if you get 51 percent of the vote you do not get your way 100 percent of the time. It is amazing. ... It is a nuclear option because it will vaporize whatever is left of bipartisanship and comity in the Senate."
May 26, 2005 - A HISTORIC COMPROMISE, Congressional Record
June 8, 2005 - NOMINATION OF JANICE ROGERS BROWN TO BE UNITED STATES CIRCUIT JUDGE FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CIRCUIT--Continued, Congressional Record
Sen. Leahy: "Through bipartisan action, the Senate has deterred the misguided bid by some on the other side of the aisle for one-party rule by means of their so-called nuclear option. Thanks to the hard work of a bipartisan group of 14 Senators, we have, for now, preserved the system of checks and balances. I mention this because as we vote on the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown, I urge all Senators to take seriously the Senate's constitutionally mandated role in determining who is going to serve lifetime appointments in the Federal judiciary."
September 22, 2005 - NOMINATION OF JOHN ROBERTS, Congressional Record
Sen. Pryor: "Today is a very important day for the Senate. I say this because several months ago this body was mired in a partisan judicial battle that many thought would end in a nuclear winter. Very few people, including a majority of the American public, thought that we would weather the storm and find common ground. But instead of nuclear winter, this body was able to rise above the partisan bickering that has plagued us for some time, and we were able to come to an agreement, an understanding that has allowed the judicial process to move forward."
Fast forward to 2013:
January 2, 2013 - Rand Paul: Nuclear option destroys the Senate, Human Events
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) is threatening to launch a first strike against the core of the Senate’s standing rules – the filibuster. If Reid fires that first shot, I promise to respond with my own rules change ideas that will expand the rights of all Senators to participate in the legislative process. The Senate has long been a body that respects the rights of each individual Senator by allowing them to participate fully in extended debate and a free amendment process, regardless of whether they were in the majority or the minority."
January 22, 2013 - Harry Reid threatens 'nuclear option' on filibuster
"Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats will take the unprecedented step of changing filibuster rules on a party-line vote if Republicans don’t agree to a bipartisan deal this week."
January 22, 2013 - Harry Reid Threatens Senate GOP with Fabled 'Nuclear Option' to Kill Filibuster, The Atlantic Wire
In a turnaround, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening Senate Republicans with an obscure (and unprecedented) method of enacting filibuster reform. In a statement to reporters on Tuesday afternoon, the Nevada Democrat said that if he does not secure enough Republican votes within the next 36 hours, he will trigger what is known as the 'nuclear option' (alternatively, the 'constitutional option'), which would override the established precedent of requiring a supermajority of Senators to change the rules of filibuster, which is the especially annoying tactic used by both sides to delay (and often kill) undesirable legislation. The 'nuclear option' requires 51 votes instead of 67, and Reid said Tuesday that he has the votes."
How times change...