The "Nuclear Option": Bill Frist ready to End the Filibuster

Senate Majority Leader said yesterday that he has the 51 votes needed to change Senate rules to prevent Democratic filibusters against Bush's judicial nominees. Referred to as the "nuclear option" for the dangerous precedent it would set, this rule change would severely hamper the Democrats' ability to prevent ultra-conservative right wing judges form being confirmed. This is a particular concern considering the high likelihood of several Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years.

See the Extended Entry for more, and the Washington Times article about it.  For more Senate news and 2006 elections, visit my blog,

While the "nuclear option" would certainly help the Republicans confirm Bush's reactionary judicial nominees, its incomprehensible to me that they aren't considering the possibility of them being in the minority again at some point in the future, where this rule change will work against them. While Frist argues that the Democrats violated precedent by filibustering judicial nominees, changing Senate rules to prevent filibusters is an even more dangerous breach of precedent, and its repercussions are likely to hurt Republicans as well as Democrats in the future (hopefully as soon as 2006).

From The Washington Times:

       Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he has the 51 votes needed to change Senate rules and make it easier for Republicans to overcome Democratic filibusters against President Bush's judicial nominees, but he hopes such a change won't be necessary.
        "We need to restore the over 200-year tradition and precedent of allowing every nominee of the president who has majority support an up-or-down vote on the floor of the United States Senate," Mr. Frist told The Washington Times on Thursday.
     "It's consistent with the Constitution, where we are as a body to give advice and consent, and the only way we can give advice and consent is an up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate."
        Mr. Frist said he has not made a decision on whether he will force the rule change the first time that Democrats filibuster a nominee.
    Asked about the so-called "nuclear option" of changing Senate rules to bar filibusters against executive nominations, Mr. Frist said that would be a "constitutional option."
        "The nuclear option is what they did to me last year when they changed the precedent," he said.
        But although he warned in the opening session that he is ready to employ the option, he said last week that he won't necessarily do it at the first filibuster against a judicial nominee.
        "The specific decision has not been made," he said. "I've got some pretty clear alternatives to use and, again, I'll just continue to appeal to the other side."

read the full article at

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And if they do it?
What are our options?
by punishinglemur 2005-02-15 12:01PM | 0 recs
Our Options
We can shut the Senate down.  We can still filibuster other bills, we can drag out nominations in the judicial committee.  We can be total obstructionists.  I don't know what else we can do, but I welcome more suggestions.
by Cicero 2005-02-15 12:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Our Options
We walk out. If they do it, they've already stepped on enough American principle for one year.

The New Democrat

by demburns 2005-02-15 02:54PM | 0 recs
That's why Dems chose Harry Reid
Reid is the Senate's second best parliamentarian, right behind Senator Byrd. I don't know the specifics, but I read an article somewhere that said the Senate was designed to be tied up by a determined minority. There are a number of other procedural devices that Dems can use to tie the Senate in knots.

Let's hope Reid and the Dems are ready to play hardball. When GOPers accuse them of being the party of "No", they should respond that they are actually the party of "HELL No". It's time to meet Frist's threats head on and take the GOPers to the mat.

Dems need to force Bush to decide if his judicial nominations are more important than everything else on the agenda this year. If the Dems don't stake out a position and hold it, GOPers will walk all over them.

by Gary Boatwright 2005-02-15 02:19PM | 0 recs
All the Levers of Power
The Republicans have what has been a rare luxury for either party over the years.  All the levers of power (White House, Senate, House, Supreme Court, federal courts as a whole) are in their hands.  They did it without a real landslide election (e.g. 1964).  I suspect they are willing to take chances because they believe they will always hold onto something, no matter the p[olitical landslide.
by David Kowalski 2005-02-15 02:39PM | 0 recs
Not hardly
You don't get it. The GOP would have to hold all 100 seats of the Seante, and all 435 seats of the House to hold all the levers of power. Too much of what the Senate does requires cooperation from all parties involves. Technically, one Senator or Representative can shut down the govenment.

95% of all business in the House and Senate passes without objection. All it takes is one member to object to a piece of chamber business, and the chamber has to address that business formally.

The chair can only handle one piece of business at a time. Without unanimous consent, the chamber can't handle a fraction of that chanber's business.

Democrats can shut down the Govenment just from completely safe seats in the House. But that doesn't address appointments. It will take one Senator to agree to shut down the appointment process as well.

by afs 2005-02-15 07:41PM | 0 recs
good old Republicans
always changing the rules when they don't suit them.
by johnny longtorso 2005-02-15 03:57PM | 0 recs
This may sound naive,
but why not filibuster during the debate on whether or not to abolish the filibuster?  Are there different rules of debate on procedural matters?
by Valatan 2005-02-15 05:42PM | 0 recs
The response is removing unanimous consent
If Frist attempts to remove the filabuster, the response is to remove unanimous consent from chamber business.

That means every bill really gets read into the record three times each time action is taken on a bill and each time a bill is amended. That means recorded electronic votes on every single order of chamber business, from all those unamimous consent proclamations like "Congratulations for winning the Super Bowl" and April is Sunflower month" as well as recessing for the day

One of those 1000 page omnibus bills would wipe out one week on reading into the record alone.

All it takes is one member to object to unamimous consent on any piece of chamber business, and they have to formally address that piece of chamber business.

We can shut down the govenment. 95% of Senate business is passed on unanimous consent. It's impossible to run the Senate without almost all Senate business getting passed without objection. The GOP could run the Senate 24/7/365, and there would still be no chance of the GOP passing even a small fraction of chamber business.

by afs 2005-02-15 07:28PM | 0 recs
Nuclear Option
This confirms my belief that Frist (and Bush) simply do not think things through.  Senate comity and bipartisanship are important to Social Security legislation, and if you piss the Dems off and cause them to bring Senate business to a stop, you say goodbye to your major domestic invitiative.  All for the sake of 10 extremist, yahoo judges when you have gotten your way 98% of the time.
by Bob H 2005-02-16 03:00AM | 0 recs
Are we making a mistake assuming, though?
I've seen Reid playing this role and been very impressed with his abilities so far. So much so, I initially voted that he'd done a 6 in that recent vote and instantly regretted I hadn't given him higher marks.

But still... I'm looking at the confirmation votes for Gonzalez and Rice and I'm worried about the lack of fight some members are displaying. It is my strong, strong hope that Democratic legislators will not just roll over and take this.

It's their power. We'll see if they're willing to defend it. As far as I'm concerned, SOMEONE had better stand up to this, and I'm hopeful the charge will be led by Reid.

by Green Irishboy 2005-02-16 03:41AM | 0 recs


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