The Nuclear Option

It has a scary sounding name: “Nuclear Option.” Not only does it sound bad, but it has officially been detonated by senate democrats. But, what is the “nuclear option?” What does it do and what are its implications?

Traditionally, senate rules have, for almost all motions, required 60 votes to invoke “cloture.” Cloture is a fancy legislative term that simply means bringing an end to debate and moving on to the vote. Filibuster, in its simplest form is the delay or prevention of cloture. For much of Obama’s Presidency, democrats have complained, and perhaps rightfully so, that republicans have abused filibuster. The dissatisfaction with republican filibuster, as there has been plenty of cases to be dissatisfied, has led to the democrats detonation of the nuclear option.

So what is the nuclear option? It is simply a rules change. Instead of requiring 60 votes to invoke cloture, it will simply require majority. As the senate has 100 seats, the magic number is now 51 votes. This, in essence, gives the senate majority all power. Instead of forcing the majority to garner the support, through debate, of some of the minority, or opposing view, to invoke cloture, the senate majority can invoke cloture on their own.

There are many implications to this option. In the short-term, democratic nominees will have no competition from the republican minority. It will also effectively remove republican ideas and arguments from consideration, as their opinions will not need be heard in order to invoke cloture. These things are good, or bad depending on your political stance. Republicans will clearly be upset by the measure, while democrats, especially those fed up with republican filibuster, will be happy to clear the cogs of the political machine. Long-term, however, democrats will eventually face these same barriers, as it is highly unlikely that democrats will control the senate for the rest of American future.

Republicans have answered to the democrat driven nuclear option in a couple of different ways. The first of which was essentially an:

“Enjoy it now. You will regret it later.”

The second way in which republicans have answered the “nuclear option,” is the suggestion that democrats are simply trying to provide a distraction from the miserable roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

While there is no way to tell whether this is true, as it is merely speculative, the only thing we can be certain of is that republicans have, indeed, used filibuster quite frequently in the Obama era.

So what do you think? Is the “Nuclear Option” just a distraction from the ACA roll-out, or did republicans push senate democrats into a corner with their frequent and perhaps abusive use of filibuster?

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