Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed that big red button and launched the Democrats' nuclear attack against the United States Senate. By which we mean that, in a 52 to 48 vote, the Senate passed a long-threatened change to its voting rules in order to ease the approval of presidential nominees. Several Democrats voted against the move, but: KABOOM.
That rules change, the much-discussed "nuclear option," was not an insignificant move for Reid. The effects are not as bad as what happened in, say, Hiroshima in 1945, but it upends a long-standing tradition in the chamber. The problem in the Democrats' view, as we've noted before, is that the Republican minority has consistently blocked administration nominees with the filibuster — a rule that requires 60 votes to overcome in a chamber where Democrats hold a 55 vote majority. Over recent weeks, Republicans have blocked three nominees from President Obama (these three) to fill vacant positions on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, a court that hears challenges to broad swaths of federal legislation.
Speaking from the Senate floor on Thursday morning, Reid noted that nearly half of the nominee filibusters in history occurred under Obama. He declared that, "the American people are fed up with this kind of obstruction and gridlock," Prior to the "nuclear option" vote, Reid asked that the body reconsider the filibuster on one of those judicial nominees — in the words of Politico's Burgess Everett, "daring" the Republicans to block her nomination yet again. They did. In the final procedural vote, Reid himself cast the deciding 51st vote for the change — which, it's important to note, only lowers the bar on non-Supreme Court appointments.