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COLUMN: Nuclear option destroys democracy

From the right


Published: Monday, December 2, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 22:12

Things went nuclear almost two weeks ago in Washington, D.C. when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Democrats bowled over Republicans in a highly controversial procedural rules change that limits the power of the minority party. The tactic used by Reid, called the nuclear option, required a simple majority vote to pass. By eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court, Reid and the rest of the Democrats who voted in favor trampled over 200 years of precedence and procedure with contempt.

This is not a partisan issue.

Back in 2005, some Republicans threatened to use the nuclear option when Democrats filibustered Miguel Estrada, who was nominated by President Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court.

"I urge my Republican colleagues not to go through with changing these rules. In the long run, it is not a good result for either party. One day Democrats will be in the majority again, and this rule change will be no fairer to a Republican minority than it is to a Democratic minority." Those were the words of then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2005 when some Republicans in the Senate threatened the nuclear option.

Last week in an act of gross hypocrisy, he praised Reid for bringing about necessary changes to the Senate.

At the heart of the issue are three nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the same court that struck down President Obama's recess appointments. It's the court that can advance or reject much of the president’s legislative and regulatory agenda. The court is evenly split between Republican and Democratic nominees. President Obama’s nominees would provide the court with a liberal majority.

President Obama, Reid and the rest of the Senate Democrats were tired of being defeated. They wanted so-called progress at the cost of compromise. They were willing to drastically change the Senate so they could more easily push their liberal agenda.

When the president appoints nominees, every member who would like to can interview the nominees to determine their suitability for the position. I saw this firsthand last summer when I interned in the office of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.

I sat in on a number of meetings with the senator and a variety of presidential nominees. In each meeting the senator would ask the nominee questions pertinent to the position he or she was nominated for. The nuclear option has eliminated the need for this important interview process. Presidential nominees will no longer be accountable to the entire body of congress, only to the party that nominated them.

The Senate was established as a cooling place for legislation and issues. Senators must work together to have nominations approved or to pass any bills. By employing the nuclear option, Reid and his cronies have only exacerbated the partisan bickering in Washington, D.C. Reid acted like one of the kids who everyone hated playing with on the playground, the one who changes the rules of a game when losing.

The House is meant to reflect the majority. In the Senate, each individual member is supposed to have a voice. The rights of the minority are meant to be protected.

– Andrew is a former news writer for The Utah Statesman and a current member of the USU College Republicans. Send any comments to

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