Harry Reid’s “nuclear option” faces counter offensive

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s attempt to change the long-standing filibuster rules — known as the “nuclear option” — faces a new threat.

The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW), a nationwide coalition of more than 600 nonprofits, associations, and other organizations, launched a six-figure campaign Monday called “Don’t Nuke the Senate,” to raise awareness among both constituents and lawmakers about the potential catastrophic effects the filibuster change could have.

At present, the Senate requires a 60 person vote to overcome a filibuster. Reid threatened last week that he may lower the threshold to 51 votes to speed along certain votes in the Senate — specifically a vote on the president’s controversial, pro-union National Labor Relations Board nominees.

“This is about making Washington work regardless of who’s the president,” Reid said last week. “The constant obstruction in this chamber has gone on long enough.”

The political party in power has often threatened the use of the “nuclear option” in order to speed long their own nominees and agenda, though they have never actually carried out those threats, for fear that when they lost power, the inability for the minority party to filibuster would be insurmountably damaging.

The White House came out in support of Reid’s threat of the filibuster change for the purpose of approving presidential nominees last week.

“The fact is…the situation has gotten exponentially worse since republicans gained — in the last several years under Senator McConnell’s leadership of the Republican minority, the obstructionism has doubled. The number of days nominees have to wait, the kinds of obstacles and gridlock created by this refusal to take up and consider and confirm highly qualified nominees,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a press briefing.

President Obama, as a Senator, spoked out against the partisanship of the nuclear option and warned of the irrevocable damage that could be done.

Today, however, there are number of presidential nominees waiting for approval, some longer than 100 days. Reid’s threat would only affect these votes, he says.

“There is no crisis in the manner in which we are confirming nominees,” Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley fought back on the Senate floor last week. ”This is all part of a larger strategy to justify breaking the rules of the United States Senate to change the rules of the United States Senate.”

The Senate has confirmed 99 percent of the lower court nominees sent to the Senate by President Obama — only 2 of 201 have not been confirmed, the Don’t Nuke the Senate website notes.

“If this is allowed to come to fruition, it will fundamentally change the legislative body and the political landscape forever,” CDW Chairman Geoffrey Burr said in a statement. “We plan to educate voters and make sure Senators know that it is in no one’s interest—not even their own political interests—to allow this dangerous and unprecedented power grab in the Senate.”