Senate Democrats on Thursday may be reflecting on the phrase "what goes around, comes around" after their Republican colleagues went nuclear with Senate filibuster rules.
Three and a half years after Democrats eliminated filibusters for most presidential nominations to push through former President Barack Obama's judicial picks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) used their own tool against them: invoking the so-called "nuclear option" to advance Neil Gorsuch's Supreme Court nomination.
Democrats attempted to obstruct Gorsuch's nomination by using the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to bypass. By applying the "nuclear option," Supreme Court nominees would only need a simple, 51-vote majority to be confirmed.
The move is similar to what Senate Democrats did in 2013, when then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) used the nuclear option for judicial nominations. Although many Democrats were hesitant at the time, they deemed it necessary, citing Republican filibuster efforts.
Only three Democrats opposed the nuclear option in 2013.
Now, however, most Democrats are opposing the nuclear option.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) was against the Senate filibuster rules before he was for them.
Will GOP obstruction of McCarthy and Perez finally prove that the Senate rules don't work?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 13, 2013
No one should be surprised by this rules change. GOP treatment of Garland made clear their priority is politics, not tradition or precedent.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 6, 2017
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) believed the filibuster was an obstacle to get work done for the American people, despite her previous thoughts.
I'm plsd we were able to reform the abused filibuster rules so we can allow the Senate to get back to work for the American people.
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— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) November 21, 2013
Irresponsible for our democracy. https://t.co/EqCHb1NtgO
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) April 6, 2017
Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) voted for the nuclear option back in 2013, but now criticizes the GOP for doing the same thing.
Sen McConnell is now poised to abolish this longstanding rule to achieve his partisan goal. He alone is responsible for this historic change
— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) April 6, 2017
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.) thanked Reid for his leadership in killing the filibuster in 2013, but issued a lurid tweet about McConnell's maneuver on Thursday.
Thank you for your leadership RT @SenatorReid Thanks to all of you who encouraged me to consider filibuster reform. It had to be done.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) November 21, 2013
The dark deed is done. McConnell has just put a knife into the heart of our We the People republic.
— Senator Jeff Merkley (@SenJeffMerkley) April 6, 2017
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.) reminded the GOP about its previous support for the 60-vote threshold, disregarding his opinions in 2013.
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) November 18, 2013
— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) April 6, 2017
Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.) said blowing up the rules was a dangerous path, but she was fine with nuking them in 2013.
Blowing up the rules for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is a dangerous path to go down. This is a sad day for the Senate. –PM
— Senator Patty Murray (@PattyMurray) April 6, 2017
Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) criticized the rule change as a way for Republicans to keep people in power.
.@SenateGOP In this country recently, we’ve sadly seen a lot of GOP rule-changing to keep people in power over the powerless. This is another example.
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 6, 2017
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) said the GOP's actions would cause irreparable damage to the political process, but had no problem voting for the nuclear option in 2013.
Senate Republicans just abandoned tradition & long-standing rules – possibly causing irreparable damage to our American political process.
— Sen. Maria Cantwell (@SenatorCantwell) April 6, 2017
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D., N.M.) has also changed his mind about the nuclear option.
— Martin Heinrich (@MartinHeinrich) April 6, 2017
Like his colleagues, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) believed in majority rule when it was convenient for his party.
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) July 25, 2013
— Senator Ben Cardin (@SenatorCardin) April 6, 2017
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) had no problem changing the rules back in 2013, but is disappointed in Republicans for doing the same.
I'm deeply disappointed Senate R's changed the rules instead of working to find a mainstream #SCOTUS nominee that is right for Michigan.
— Sen. Debbie Stabenow (@SenStabenow) April 6, 2017
Sen. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) is another Democrat whose opinions on the nuclear option changed.
Senate GOP turned filibuster into a tool to paralyze, not persuade. Time to end obstructionism http://t.co/SXJXPEL6TV
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) November 21, 2013
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) April 6, 2017
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) thought the 2013 rules change made government "work better," but called Thursday one of his "saddest days in the Senate."
Today’s historic Senate rules reform makes gov’t work better. Unprecedented abuse of filibuster damaging #American legal system
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) November 21, 2013
— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) April 6, 2017
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) also pushed for the nuclear option in 2012 and 2013. She wrote an op-ed in 2012 for the Huffington Post calling for the nuclear option to kill the filibuster for all Senate votes.
"If Republicans continue to filibuster these highly qualified nominees for no reason other than to nullify the president's constitutional authority, then senators not only have the right to change the filibuster rules, senators have a duty to change the filibuster rules," Warren said in 2013.
But on Thursday Warren joined her Democratic colleagues in decrying McConnell's use of the nuclear option.