NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It was a historic move by Senate Democrats fed up with Washington gridlock.
On Thursday they voted to deny Republicans the power to filibuster and block presidential appointments.
As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported, it’s called the “‘nuclear option,” and it hit congress like a bomb.
“For too long Washington has been in gridlock, gridlock, gridlock. The American people are sick of this. We’re sick of it. Is it any wonder how people look at Congress? Enough is enough,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid invoked what has been called the “nuclear option.” Instead of 60 votes needed to approve judicial and executive branch nominations, a simple majority of 51 will be needed.
Republicans were furious. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell mocked President Barack Obama’s off-the-mark healthcare pledge, if you like your health plan you can keep it.
“He may just as well have said if you like the rules of the Senate you can keep them, huh? If you like the rules of the Senate you can keep them,” McConnell said.
McConnell charged that the Democrats broke their own rules to change the rules, passing the measure with 52 votes, not 60.
“In my view, this is the most important and most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them at the beginning of our country,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
“It’s a new world. People demand action. The old rules need to be modified and that’s what we have done today. We haven’t ripped them up. We’ve modified them in ways that can make things work,” Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
The president was thrilled.
“The American people’s business is far too important to keep falling prey day after day to Washington politics,” Obama said.
In the short term the Senate move will clear the way for several presidential appointments, but long term it could be a ticking time bomb.
Supreme Court nominees are exempt from the new rule, so Republicans could decide to block any appointment if a vacancy occurs during the Obama administration.
Also, Senate Republicans are vowing to use it as an issue in the 2014 midterm elections, trying to regain control of the Senate and use the new tool themselves.
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