Sen. Harry Reid (D., Nev.) said in a 2008 interview that as long as he was the Senate Majority Leader, the nuclear option would never happen under his watch.
“As long as I am the Leader, the answer’s no,” he said. “I think we should just forget that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never, ever get to that again because I really do believe it will ruin our country.
Reid railed against Republicans who fought for the measure, saying it would lead to a unicameral legislature and that the U.S. Senate was purposefully set up by the Founding Fathers to have different rules than the House of Representatives. Such a measure like the nuclear option, he said, would “change our country forever.”
Yet on Thursday, on a nearly party-line vote of 52-48, Democrats abruptly changed the Senate’s balance of power by reducing from 60 to 51 the number of votes needed to end procedural roadblocks known as filibusters against all presidential nominees. As the minority party, the Republicans have been effectively stripped of their ability to block President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees.
TOM DASCHLE: What was the nuclear option, and what likelihood is there that we’re going to have to face nuclear option-like questions again?
HARRY REID: What the Republicans came up with was a way to change our country forever. They made a decision if they didn’t get every judge they wanted, every judge they wanted then they were going to make the Senate just like the House of Representatives. We would in fact have a unicameral legislature where a simple majority would determine whatever happens. In the House of Representatives today, Pelosi’s the leader. Prior to that, it was Hastert. Whatever they wanted, Hastert or Pelosi, they get done. The rules over there allow that. The Senate was set up to be different. That was the genius, the vision of our Founding Fathers, that this bicameral legislature which was unique, had two different duties. One was as Franklin said, to pour the coffee into the saucer and let it cool off. That’s why you have the ability to filibuster and to terminate filibuster. They wanted to get rid of all that, and that’s what the nuclear option was all about.
DASCHLE: And is there any likelihood that we’re going to face circumstances like that again?
REID: As long as I am the Leader, the answer’s no. I think we should just forget that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never, ever get to that again because I really do believe it will ruin our country. I said during that debate that in all my years in government, that was the most important thing I ever worked on.
[H/T National Review]