The Hill reports that Sen. Frist and the Republicans have decided against using the so-called nuclear option to break Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees. The rationale is that this would likely derail other important legislation that they’d like to pass. If employed at all, the tactic will be reserved for late in the session after those bills have been voted upon.

The nuclear option, which has been floated by Frist, Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and other Republicans, is a parliamentary device aimed at halting Democratic filibusters of judicial nominations. It would seek a ruling from the Senate parliamentarian that the filibuster of executive nominations is unconstitutional.

It is possible that the parliamentarian would advise the chairman to rule against the GOP. In that case, Republicans could force a vote overruling the chairman, ramming through the decision on a simple majority vote.

Democrats have warned that such hardball parliamentary tactics could cause a meltdown in the Senate — hence the use of the term “nuclear,†which Republicans once embraced but now usually try to avoid. Another option would be to try to change the Senate’s rules, but such an effort would face long odds in the Senate.

Of course, they’re dangerously close to meltdown as it is.

(Hat tip: Howard Bashman)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.