Senate approves change to filibuster rules, exercising 'nuclear option'

Politics -

The Senate approved a change to filibuster rules preventing the minority party's ability to block most presidential nominations.

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Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

The Senate voted 52-48 Nov. 21 to change the rules of the Senate, invoking the so-called 'nuclear-option,' clearing the way for the Senate to approve President Obama's nominees with a simple majority. The vote marks one of the most significant changes to the way the Senate functions that has happened in decades.

"It's time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete." Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Reid's move eliminates the filibuster for most presidential nominees to the executive and judiciary, but retains it for Supreme Court picks. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell condemned the move, warning, "You'll regret this and you might regret it even sooner than you might think."

Leaders had previously avoided the "nuclear option" over fears that making the change could be dangerous in the future and threaten protections for the minority party.

The use of filibusters has increased over the last half-century, rising from a handful every year in the 1960s to more than 400 since Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) became majority leader in 2006.

On Dec. 10, the Senate confirmed Patricia Millett to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in a 56-38 vote. Her confirmation was the first vote under the Senate's new rules governing confirmations of presidential appointees.

A temporary compromise on the use of filibusters was reached in July 2013. As part of the agreement, Senate Republicans agreed to hold up or down votes on several pending nominees. On July 18, Thomas Perez was confirmed as the nation's next Labor Secretary in a 54-46 vote, and later Gina McCarthy received confirmation as the next head of the EPA.

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