Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., said Wednesday he was not concerned about the precedent that Democrats would create by using the so-called nuclear option to limit filibusters. He said any concerns over the long-term implications of nuking Senate minority filibuster rights have faded as Senate Democrats have struggled to get anything done.
“It has lessened because the frustration has grown,” he said at an event hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “The obstruction has been continuous, with person after person. It has become a very clear [campaign] to disable an administration that was re-elected by the American people.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is set to meet with his caucus Thursday to discuss whether to try change the rules that require the consent of 60 senators to allow debate on a matter on the Senate floor. Democrats have charged the Republicans have abused this filibuster rule to stall legislation and President Obama’s nominations.
Reid could change the rule itself with a simple majority vote — he reportedly has just enough votes to do it — but has been reluctant to act. Part of the reason is that doing so would create a precedent that Republicans could use the next time they get a Senate majority. Democrats could find themselves with no leverage to counter GOP actions in that situation.
Merkley said the current gridlock has changed most Democrats’ thinking on the matter.
“There is something to be said for this principle that you should, in a majority, be able to change the rules,” he said. “I think democracy is better served by a situation where the president can get votes on his nominations.”