The Democrat-controlled Senate voted Thursday to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” making it possible to confirm most presidential nominees by a simple majority vote.
But not all Democrats were on board with the change.
Thursday’s vote marked a major shift in more than 200 years of Senate precedent that required a 60-vote majority to assure a final vote on most presidential nominees. The “nuclear option,” however, means only 51 votes are required to confirm most judicial and executive nominees.
Supreme Court appointees are still exempt form the rule change. Also, it’s important to note that this vote doesn’t block other filibusters like Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s nearly 13-hour marathon speech against President Barack Obama’s drone program.
“It shows you just how desperate and cynical Democrats have become,” one Senate Republican aide told TheBlaze. “They have proven willing to destroy a defining and historic aspect of the Senate in order to distract from their disastrous health care law and the harm it’s inflicting on the American people right now.”
“Unfortunately, while their ploy may help them in the news cycle for a few days, Americans will still be suffering all the while,” the aide added.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accused Republicans Thursday of “unbelievable, unprecedented obstruction” of the president’s selections for court vacancies and other offices.
“It’s time to change the Senate, before this institution becomes obsolete,” Reid said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for his part, accused Democrats of trying to distract from the ongoing disaster that has been the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, adding that Democrats would later come to regret the rule change.
“When Democrats were in the minority they argued strenuously for the very thing they now say we will have to do without, namely the right to extend a debate on lifetime appointments. In other words, they believe that one set of rules should apply to them and another set to everybody else,” he said.
McConnell reminded his colleagues Reid said in 2012 he wouldn’t try to change the process of approving appointees.
“He may as well just have said, ‘If you like the rules of the Senate, you can keep them,'” McConnell said, referring to the president’s oft-repeated promise that Americans could keep their insurance under Obamacare.
“Senator Reid is breaking over 100 years of years of precedence in order to get his way,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “Reid is a bully, dictating to the Senate.”
Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.), Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Carl Levin (Mich.) voted “yea” with Republicans against the rule change.
“My judicial nominees have waited nearly two-and-a-half times longer to receive yes or no votes on the Senate floor than those of President Bush. The ones who do get a vote are generally confirmed with little or any dissent. This isn’t obstruction on substance on qualifications. It’s just to gum up the works,” President Obama said after the vote. “The vote today I think is an indication that a majority of senators believe as I believe that enough is enough. The American’s people’s business is far too important to keep falling prey day after day to partisan politics.”
“I’m a former senator. So is my vice president. We both value any Senate’s duty to advise and consent. It’s important and we take that very seriously. But a few now refuse to treat that duty of advise and consent with the respect that it deserves. It is no longer used in a responsible way to govern. It’s rather used as a reckless and relentless tool to grind all business to a halt. That’s not what our founders intended,” he added.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Senate voted:
Prior to the vote, Heritage Action, a conservative political group, released the following statement: “For Harry Reid and President Obama, this is not about a couple circuit court judges; this is an attempt to remake America to reflect their unworkable and unpopular progressive vision. If Reid and his colleagues continue down this path, they will set a precedent that fundamentally alters the role of the minority in American politics.”
TheBlaze’s Sara Carter and Fred Lucas contributed to this report.
This post has been updated.
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