The Hill reports:
In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.
Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.
The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation.
An e-mail from McConnell’s office last night explained: “Here’s the nuts and bolts. Sen. Reid raised an unprecedented point of order against ‘motions to suspend.’ The chair didn’t agree with his motion. Sen. Reid moved to appeal the ruling of the chair (thus setting a new precedent). The Senate then voted on whether or not the chair was correct. Republicans (and a Democrat) voted aye. Dems voted no, to overturn the ruling. So now the precedent (rule) of the Senate is that there is a point of order against ‘motions to suspend.’” In non-legislative-ese, Reid changed the rules to protect his members from having to vote on amendments that would embarrass them and/or the White House.
It’s not clear this will stand. Republicans could threaten to bring the Senate to a halt, filibustering everything in sight. But perhaps they will simply say fine. After all, that sort of thing will come in handy when, as generally expected, the Republicans take back the Senate.
This is the sort of petulant reaction we’ve seen mostly from the White House. It is borne of frustration. The president’s jobs plan isn’t popular, even with Democrats. The president's approval ratings are sinking. The economic is floundering. Those are insoluble problems for the Democrats. So naturally, change the rules. Shut up the opposition. Do they think this will help?