Sen. Harry Reid Considers Same Nuclear Option He Totally Rejected in 2008

By Curtis Houck | July 15, 2013 | 5:38 PM EDT



Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (AP Photo)

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Warning that “the power of an extreme minority now threatens the integrity of this institution,” Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that whoever is President "should have the ability to pick their team" hours before convening a closed door meeting about changing the Senate’s filibuster rules for certain executive confirmations “to save the Senate from becoming obsolete.”

"The Founding Fathers wanted an up or down vote, and that's basically what we've been crying for now for years. And I believe this whether it's one of the new Bushes to be President, maybe Jeb, or maybe a new Clinton. Maybe Hillary or maybe even the daughter, but whoever's President, they should have the ability to pick their team. I feel very strongly about that," Reid told participants at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event.

Emphasizing that "this does not affect lifetime appointments, it doesn't affect substantive legislation, it allows a President to have his team, this President and those in the future," Reid added that while the Senate is a unique institution whose "traditions are important, but also it's an evolving institution. It's always been that way. That's why we've changed the rules 18 times in the last three decades."

"Everyone knows that under the Constitution, we have a responsibility to give advice and consent to the President on his nominations, but all we have from the Republicans is not advise and consent, but obstruct and delay. And that's really the truth."

However, Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats blocked numerous Bush executive branch nominees when they were in the minority in the Senate during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Between 2003 and April 2005, Senate Democrats themselves had threatened to filibuster 10 judicial appointees who, at that point, failed to reach the Senate for an up or down vote.

In addition, a February blog post from The Hill gives examples of executive appointments  by President Bush that had to overcome filibusters through cloture votes. They included:

- Dirk Kempthorne for Secretary of the Interior in 2006;

- Robert J. Portman for U.S. Trade Representative in 2005;

- Stephen L. Johnson for administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2005; and

- Michael O. Leavitt for EPA Administrator in 2003.

In a 2008 interview with former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-S.D.), Reid rejected the idea that the “nuclear option” would ever be used in the future, noting  that his efforts to stop the changing of Senate filibuster rules by the Republican majority in 2005 was "the most important thing I ever worked on."

"As long as I'm the leader, the answer is "No." I think we should just forget about that. That is a black chapter in the history of the Senate. I hope we never, ever get to that again, because I really do believe it will ruin our country," said Reid.

Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution gives the Senate the power to approve or block the president’s nominations to cabinet positions and ambassadorships.

"Congress is extremely unpopular for a couple of main reasons,” Reid added. "Any poll you look at indicates that they're unpopular for two reasons. One, gridlock. Gridlock, Gridlock. Two, not getting things done and that's really true," he said.

"Flip on CSPAN, as I know some of you do, and what do you see there the vast majority of the time? Nothing. Blank screen. Quorum calls. So we're wasting time, hour after hour, day after day."