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Here’s the nuclear option debate explained in two charts

At the heart of the ongoing Senate debate over whether or not to invoke the nuclear option -- a fancy name for a rules change that would allow a simple majority vote to approve federal judicial nominees -- is this question: Are the blockading tactics being used by Republicans above and beyond what has ever been done before?

That depends on how you parse it. We reached out to the offices of Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to let them each make their case -- in chart form! -- for why this latest string of blockades is/isn't ahistorical.

First, the chart that Reid's office sent, which details the rapid rise of filibusters on executive branch nominees during the Obama administration.


Then the chart that McConnell's office provided, which shows that the number of Obama nominees that have been blocked is a pittance compared to the number that have been confirmed.


So, are Republicans engaged in an unprecedented pattern of obstruction or, as McConnell said Thursday morning on the Senate floor, are Democrats picking a "fake fight over judges"?  That depends on whether you think all presidential nominees are created equal. That's the basis of the chart provided by McConnell's office, which assumes that a nominee to a lesser-known (or less powerful) board or committee or judgeship is roughly the equivalent of an appointment to, say, the D.C. Court of Appeals. The Reid chart adopts the opposite notion -- pointing out that never before in modern politics have so many presidential nominees for critical executive positions been blocked. "You don't have to like the laws of the land, but you do have to acknowledge them," Reid scolded Republicans this morning.

Where do you come down? Are Democrats taking the only option left to them in the face of historical Republican blockading? Or are Democrats purposely overreacting to routine obstruction in order to get their way?

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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Ed O'Keefe · November 21, 2013

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