Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., threatened Thursday to invoke the so-called “nuclear option” as early as Tuesday if Republicans continue to filibuster presidential nominees he trying to shepherd towards confirmation.
“We want to break gridlock, and make Washington work for Americans,” Reid told reporters following a Democratic caucus meeting in which lawmakers discussed whether to change Senate rules to curb the filibuster. “We’re not interested in cutting a deal to pass one or two or three nominees. The president deserves to have his team in place.”
Reid said he plans to push forward with seven nominations, and if Republican refuse to advance them, he would “go to the floor Tuesday, and do what I need to do, so this doesn’t happen anymore.”
The Nevada Democrat’s “nuclear option” involves changing the body’s rules so that only a simple majority of 51 votes — instead of the current 60-vote threshold — would be needed to approve a nominee.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that if Reid invokes the nuclear option, he's "going to be remembered as the worst leader in the Senate ever."
"These are dark days in the history of the Senate," McConnell said.
Not all Democrats are behind Reid. Some, like long-time Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters he recalls when his party was in the minority and resisted a similar change to the rules.
“I opposed it when Republicans tried it in 2005, I fought against it then, as did most Democrats,” Levin said. “And I continue to oppose it.”
Republicans, who would see their influence in the Senate drop if rules were changed, are arguing strenuously against the majority leader’s move and threatened to bring the chamber to a “screeching halt” if Democrats change the rules.
“President Obama and his nominees have been treated more than fairly,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on the Senate floor, citing the 1,560 nominees the Senate has already confirmed.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers agreed to meet to discuss gridlock in the Senate on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Old Senate Chamber.