The Mushroom Cloud Over the Senate Has Passed – Nuclear Option Avoided At the Last Minute


Following a four-hour, closed-door caucus of the full Senate, it appears, once again, that the legislative body has avoided a political disaster. The "nuclear option," a change to Senate filibuster rules that could have stalled Senate action on any issue for years, was (at least temporarily) put on hold. Senate Democrats and Republicans showed that they can work together, but raised the question of why they so often refuse to.

At the heart of the debate were seven presidential appointments that have been held up by Republicans. GOP opposition was particularly driven by the blatantly illegal recess appointments of Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and of two members of the National Labor Relations Board.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had threatened to employ the nuclear option, a parliamentary maneuver that would have changed filibuster rules, and allowed 51 senators to enact cloture, instead of the currently required 60. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) proposed allowing the nomination of Cordray to move forward, in exchange for the replacement of the National Labor Relations Board nominees.

This was enough to satisfy Reid, who praised Senator McCain on the Senate floor for his leadership. Republicans also seemed satisfied. The cloture vote on Cordray’s nomination went through. Seventeen Republicans and two independents joined the Democrats, invoking cloture with a vote of 71 to 29. This does not guarantee confirmation, but does allow the vote to confirm to take place.  

This vote highlights the ridiculousness of the political grandstanding that took place leading up to the meeting. Valuable time and energy that could have been spent governing was wasted on partisan bickering and grabbing the media's attention. Why do 100 intelligent individuals feel the need to play games, when they are fully capable of and willing to collaborate or compromise?