What today’s ‘nuclear option’ fight means for filibuster reform

Democratic threats to reform the filibuster in the Senate are a part of of a "culture of intimidation" that includes the targeting of conservatives at the Internal Revenue Service, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alleged Wednesday morning.


The nuclear option? Probably not.

While his remarks might suggest that a fight over the filibuster is (again) looming, that's not likely -- at least not for a couple months.

Here's how the drama on the Senate floor -- a sentence we rarely type -- went down this morning.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) wants a vote this week on Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. McConnell wants to hold the vote in June, after the Memorial Day congressional recess. The two went on to argue over nominations for nearly an hour, with Reid lamenting gridlock and McConnell pointing to many Obama nominees who have been confirmed. McConnell demanded that Reid pledge not to use the so-called "nuclear option," which would allows filibusters to be broken by a simple majority vote. Reid refused.

"It doesn’t seem that the culture of intimidation is simply confined to the Executive Branch," McConnell said. "The Administration’s allies in the Senate are trying to intimidate their political opponents as well. "What I’m talking about ... is the persistent threat by the Majority to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate—in other words, to use the nuclear option—if they don’t get their way."

But Reid declined Tuesday to say if he plans to bring up filibuster reform, and senior aides have said that any such move would not come until at least July, as Democrats want to keep the partisan powder keg sealed until after immigration legislation is considered next month. And in the past he has used the "nuclear option" as a threat only to disappoint reformers by agreeing to minor changes in Senate rules.

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Karen Tumulty | May 22, 2013