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Top Democrats Hated the 'Nuclear Option' Before They Were For It

• "... raw abuse of power."• "Will destroy...checks and balances."• "... naked power grab."

The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to invoke the so-called “nuclear option,” making it possible for Congress to confirm most judicial and executive nominees with just 51 votes (as opposed to the previous 61).

President Barack Obama (C) walks with Vice President-elect Joseph Biden (R) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (L) on Captiol Hill January 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

“(T)he vote today…is an indication that a majority of senators believe, as I believe, that enough is enough,” President Barack Obama said after the vote. “The American people's business is far too important to keep falling prey day after day to Washington 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,” he added.

But here’s something interesting (and perhaps not all that surprising): Top Democrats were at one point fiercely opposed to the “nuclear option.”

Fiercely.

“The threat to change Senate rules is a raw abuse of power and will destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government,” Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in 2005 in reference to Republican efforts to invoke the “nuclear option” to expedite the nomination of President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

Then-Sen. Barack Obama added in 2005: “I sense that talk of the nuclear option is more about power than about fairness … I believe some of my colleagues propose this rules change because they can get away with it rather than because they know it’s good for our democracy.

“The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster – if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate – then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse,” the senator from Illinois added.

And let’s not forget Joe Biden.

“You cannot change the Senate rules by a pure majority vote,” then-Sen. Biden said in 2005.

“Watch the vice president ignore – he’s not required to look to an unelected officer — but that has been the practice for 218 years,” Biden said, referring to Vice President Dick Cheney. “He will make the ruling, which is a lie. A lie about the rule.”

“This is what’s really going on here, the majority doesn’t want to hear what others have to say even if it’s the truth,” Biden continued. “The nuclear option abandons America’s sense of fair play.”

“I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever,” Biden concluded. “I pray God, when the Democrats take back control, we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”

(H/T: Mediaite’s Noah Rothman)

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter

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