Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is about to take the Senate nuclear this week in order to confirm President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. So what is the nuclear option and why will it be used?
According to CNN, the nuclear option is a rule change that would allow the Senate to confirm presidential nominations with a simple majority vote. The current process calls for a 60 vote majority to end debate on the nominee before the nominee goes up for a simple majority vote on actual confirmation.
The Republicans control the Senate with 52 members and thus would need eight Democrats to vote to end debate on Gorsuch. So far, only three Democrats (I use that term loosely here) have said they would vote to move on to the simple majority vote for confirmation. To the Republicans, I say, quoting the hit musical “Hamilton,” “You don’t have the votes!”
By not voting to end debate, Democrats are using a parliamentary tactic known as the filibuster. The filibuster operates by extending a debate, sometimes indefinitely, to prevent an actual vote on the issues at hand from taking place.
The nuclear option for presidential nominations may signal an end for the Senate as we know it. One of the purposes of the 60 vote requirement to end debate is to promote bipartisanship and to have some agreement on who is going to fill some of the highest posts in the nation.
The House of Representatives is where simple majority rule is supposed to reign, not the Senate. While the rule change would not affect legislation directly, it may cause further rifts between Democrats and Republicans that would make legislation harder to craft and pass.
Our Senate has existed in pretty much the same way for the past 200 years, but it now seems like it could be radically changed by the end of the week.