In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, pushed through a so-called “nuclear option” rule after he was frustrated with Republican slow-walking on President Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments. It meant that instead of requiring 60 Senate votes to confirm the president’s appointments, Reid and other Senate Democrats could approve Obama’s appointments with a simple majority of 51 votes.
Now, there are currently 51 Republicans in the U.S. Senate—meaning they will be able to use the same nuclear option to approve President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointees with relative ease after Inauguration Day in January 2017.
Kristen Orthman, a spokeswoman for Reid, told The Washington Post last week: “Sen. Reid has no regrets on invoking the nuclear option because of Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction.”
She continued, “If Republicans want to go on record supporting radicals, that’s their decision and they will have to live with it.”
At the time, Reid and other Democrats believed that Republican opposition to Obama’s appointments had been crippling the federal government.
Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he opposed the “nuclear option” three years ago. “I wanted 60 for Supreme Court and Cabinet, but I didn’t prevail,” he told the Washington Post on Friday.
“If it’s somebody who is out of the mainstream,” he added. “We’ll fight tooth and nail and use every tool we have.”
Meanwhile, Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said he had “absolutely no regret” over the nuclear option. “We’d never seen abuse of advice and consent in the history of our country so that was a necessary way to correct it,” he told CNN on Friday.
In 2013, some Republican senators issued a warning to Democrats about invoking the option.
“Democrats won’t be in power in perpetuity. This is a mistake—a big one for the long run. Maybe not for the short run. Short-term gains, but I think it changes the Senate tremendously in a bad way,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said three years ago.