Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Detonate the Nuclear Option

It's time Democrats faced reality. It's time they detonated the so-called Nuclear Option in the U.S. Senate by changing the rules to eliminate the ability of a minority—even one senator—to thwart the will of the majority. The nuclear option would empower a simple majority of senators to pass legislation or affirm presidential appointments (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/20/us/politics/senate-democrats-consider-move-to-curb-filibusters.html?ref=politics&_r=0). 

Under current rules, it takes 60 votes to cut off debate, to end a filibuster. As neither party has 60 members in its caucus, even one senator can hold the government hostage. For example, Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) has held up presidential appointments until he is satisfied he has all the information he wants on the Benghazi affair. Similarly, Republicans have stymied President Obama’s efforts to appoint three judges to the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Democrats have threatened before to change the rules. They demurred because they feared what would happen if Republicans ever gained control of the Senate. Here's what would happen: The GOP would not hesitate to employ the nuclear option. Any party that already has shut down the government, toyed with defaulting on the national debt, and blatantly said its mission is to thwart anything the president does would not hesitate to change the rules and emasculate a Democratic minority. Just look at actions Republicans have taken in state legislatures. They repeatedly have passed measures dear to Democrats. They have enacted laws to stifle voting opportunities for minorities, have curtailed a woman’s right to choose, have diluted the rights of unions, and have redrawn (gerrymandered) voting districts to ensure GOP majorities until after the next census in 2020. 

It is foolish to think the Yahoos in the Republican Party would not opt for nuclear political warfare should they succeed in securing a majority in the Senate. 

Haven’t the Democrats learned anything over the last five years of Obama’s presidency? It might have been nice to try to work with Republicans during the first two or three years, but being nice has merely emboldened Republicans. Perhaps, if Obama and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) had shown some backbone the GOP would have sought common ground. As it stands now, Republicans have no problem testing the limits of their power, limits that Obama and Reid have not strongly enough delineated for them. 


Bottom line: Democrats have nothing to lose. Start the countdown now: 10, 9, 8, ... 

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