The Senate may be heading for a showdown on the filibuster. Majority Leader Harry Reid has spent the last week aggressively making the case for the "nuclear option" -- a majority vote to change the Senate rules on executive-branch nominations. On the Senate floor, on Meet the Press on Sunday, and in a speech Monday morning at the Center for American Progress, he has promised to enact such a rules change with a Tuesday morning vote if a set of seven contentious nominations is not approved. "I love the Senate," he said Monday, "but right now, the Senate is broken, and it needs to be fixed."
Is Reid really going to do it? Or is he bluffing?
That's the question on the minds of Senate watchers who have seen this movie before. Most notably, back in January, rules-reform advocates thought they finally had Reid's backing to rein in the filibuster. But instead, Reid seems to have used their proposals as a foil to secure a far more limited procedural deal in an agreement worked out behind the scenes with the Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell.
This time, Reid insists he is serious, and his vote threat is not a negotiating tactic. Gridlock and "not getting things done" are the reasons Congress is so abysmally unpopular, he said Monday. The filibuster's use has exploded to an unprecedented degree: Lyndon Johnson, he noted, had to overcome a single filibuster in his six years as majority leader; Reid, in the same amount of time, has faced more than 400. The Constitution, he noted, does not call for supermajority votes for presidential nominations. Like a baseball manager, he said, a president of either party "should have the ability to pick their team."