In November 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) helped lead a major rule change¬†in the chamber called the “nuclear option” that liberals cheered at the time but are ruing three years later.
Now, President-elect Donald Trump, with a Republican Senate, can have his appointments confirmed with a simple majority because of that rule change. Democrats have vowed to stall action on Trump’s Cabinet nominations, but they don’t have the votes to stop their confirmations.
The nuclear option measure, which all Republicans opposed in 2013, effectively left the then-minority Republicans powerless to stop President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees, changing the threshold from the former filibuster-proof 60 votes to a simple majority of 51.
While Supreme Court picks and legislation still required 60 votes to be filibuster-proof, judgeships and Cabinet appointments could from then on be approved with just 51 votes.
Reid at the time declared the move necessary due to the Senate being “broken” from GOP intransigence, and media allies did not hesitate to agree.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said Obama and the Democrats “have gone to war with their enemies, finally.” Fellow host Steve Kornacki said “this was a move Democrats had to make,” saying Republicans put them in that position by blocking so many of Obama’s appointments.
“All this really does is say that the president that we elected to actually run the government gets to run the government,” liberal CNN commentator Hillary Rosen said.
Washington Post¬†columnist Jonathan Capehart cited Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) as “Exhibit A” of why Reid and the Democrats “did what they had to do.”
“Even the reaction to this announcement seems to be one more piece of evidence that this Republican Party is not interested in doing the business of the country,” future Hillary Clinton spokeswoman Karen Finney said on her short-lived MSNBC show, “Disrupt with Karen Finney.”
Liberal political comedians reliably chimed in to boost the Democrats’ move.
“So deciding to allow majority rules to incrementally increase governmental efficiency in presidential appointments is so unthinkably extreme, it’s the nuclear option?” “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart teased.
“Now majority rules, you know, almost like a democracy?” HBO host Bill Maher said to cheers.
Multiple columnists cited the Senate being paralyzed from doing the people’s business as reason to praise using the nuclear option. The filibuster was called “obsolete” and “racist,” the latter charge coming from none other than MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
That was 2013, however, one year after the last successful election Democrats had. A little less than a year later, Republicans recaptured the Senate in a wave election. In 2016, they recaptured the White House in the form of Donald Trump.
The 2013 change leaves a mess for Reid’s successor as minority leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who was part of the Senate leadership at the time. Three Democrats voted against the nuclear option, but Schumer was not one of them.
“I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60, because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship,”¬†Schumer told CNN last week. “I won on Supreme Court, lost on Cabinet, but it’s what we have to live with now.”
Having not seen a President Trump with a Republican Congress at his disposal coming, the words of Democratic strategist Maria Cardona on a CNN panel back in 2013 loom large: “There’s no question we could come one day to regret this.”