POLITICS: PennAve

Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell spar as %u2018nuclear option%u2019 looms

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell continued to duke it out Sunday over filibuster reform and the Democratic threat of unleashing the so-called “nuclear option.”

Speaking on NBC’s "Meet the Press," Reid, D-Nev., defended his vow to break Senate rules when lawmakers return this week and allow for a vote on several of President Obama’s appointments. Normally 60 votes are needed in the Senate to clear the way for a vote on nominees, but Reid’s maneuver to override the Senate rules  would require only a simple majority.

Reid said many of the appointments have been held up for months by Republicans, slowing down the effectiveness of government.

“The changes we’re making are very, very minimal,” Reid said. “What we’re doing is saying, ‘Look, American people, shouldn’t President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?’ The 15 people that we found cloture on, they are pending. They’ve been waiting an average of nine months — nine months. Is that good? Do we want to continue that?”

Republicans manly object to two Democratic appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and Richard Cordray to be director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, three individuals Obama appointed while the Senate was temporarily in recess. A federal court ruled those appointments were done illegally.

Reid and McConnell, R-Ky., engaged in a spirited exchange on the Senate floor last week over Reid’s threat and the two sides agreed to hold a joint caucus Monday night to settle the parties’ differences. McConnell, who claimed Reid “is going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever” if he went ahead with the nuclear option, was much more measured in his rhetoric Sunday.

McConnell said he was glad that Republicans backed down for a similar fight when they controlled the Senate in 2005 and he hoped Democrats would do the same this week.

“We went to the brink, and we pulled back because cooler heads prevailed, and we knew it would be a mistake for the long-term future of the Senate and the country,” McConnell said. “That’s what I hope is going to happen here. We have an opportunity to pull back from the brink in this joint meeting that we’re going to have of all senators in the Old Senate Chamber Monday night. I hope we’ll come to our senses and not change the core of the Senate.”

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