Reid To Use “Nuclear Option” To Combat Judicial Filibusters?

As we’ve noted here recently at OTB, here and here, there remains a serious problem with regard to judicial confirmations in the Senate thanks in large part to the Senate GOP’s liberal use of filibusters to block President Obama’s judicial nominees, a practice that was first utilized by Democratic during the Bush Administration. Back then, Senate Republicans became so frustrated that they threatened to use their majority to reform the filibuster rules, at least as they applied to judicial nominations. At the time, it came to be called the “nuclear option,” and now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to do the same thing:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday that unless nominations start moving swiftly through the Senate, another round of dramatic rules changes may be in the offing.

The Nevada Democrat said that while he was “happy” with the modest rules changes adopted in January on a bipartisan basis, the number of pending judicial nominations led him to warn his colleagues of the potential for the chamber’s rules to be modified at any point in the year, not just at the opening of a new Congress.

“All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic senators and the Republican senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power on any given day to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary,” Reid said on Nevada Public Radio.

Reid last year adopted the position that rules could be changed using a simple majority — instead of a filibuster-proof majority — if done on the first day of the legislative session. But these recent comments appear to signal that he believes he has an even broader ability to reshape the chamber’s rules.

In the interview, Reid said he discussed Senate business Friday with President Barack Obama and New York Sen.Charles E. Schumer, the No. 3 in the Democratic leadership hierarchy.

“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid said. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”

When Bill First made this same threat in the early 2000s, it led t the formation of the so-called “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan group of Senators that managed to hammer out on agreement that allowed most of President’s Bush’s nominations to move forward to a vote on the merits. Whether that will happen this time, and what Reid will actually do if it doesn’t, remains to be seen.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. edmondo says:


    Harry Reid threatens to curb filibuster abuse. (Again).

    I wonder how many more times we’ll see this headline….this month.

  2. stonetools says:

    Go Harry go. The Republicans must be laughing behind Harry’s back. How long did it take for them to break their “gentleman’s agreement” of a couple of months ago-three seconds?
    Time to move-the case has been built.

  3. Not Likely says:

    another round of dramatic rules changes may be in the offing.

    I mist have missed the first round.

  4. Barry says:

    Seconding or thirding this sentiment – Reid has demonstrated that he doesn’t have any bullets in his gun. And there will be enough Blue Dogs to frustrated any Dem attempt to do anything.

  5. Facebones says:

    Believe it when I see it. Dems should have let the Republicans do the Nuclear Option back in 2005. But, Harry Reid stopped it then and he’ll stop it now and nothing will get done in the senate.