DeFazio: Dem Senators considering the "nuclear option"?

Carla Axtman

In 2005, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) began threatening Senate Democrats who had been filibustering Bush's judicial nominees with something called the "nuclear option". In a nutshell, the nuclear option is a procedural manuever to end a filibuster with a majority vote.

Fast foward to 2008. The Republicans are now in the minority and have set a new record for the number of filibusters in a session.

On Friday, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) appeared on The Young Turks, telling host Cenk Uygur that Senate Democrats may be considering the nuclear option against the obstructionist Republicans:

Cenk Uygur: Is that real? Is that being discussed within the Democratic Party?

Pete DeFazio: Well, I would hope. I don't understand Senate culture. You know, it's a different world over there. But I have friends over there who have that position. You know, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, and you know, other progressives who are over there, and I think it is real. I think if we get a Democratic President, we got a good majority in the House, we're working with a Democratic President...sending him bills, and there's, you know, say 41 or 42 Republicans who are blocking all our bills, I think you would find at that point that there would be, you know, that they may well push through, change the rules, and say look, "We're going to have a majority rule placed here for change. 51 votes wins all."

Cenk Uygur: So, the Democratic Senators are considering a nuclear option in that scenario?

Pete DeFazio: I believe they are, but I'm not privy to the highest councils over there.

Frankly, I'm exasperated at Congress right now--especially with the latest capitulations on the FISA bill. Unless I see the spine itself in the actual form of the nuclear option, I'm reticent to believe DeFazio on this.

It'd be peachy to click my heels together three times and wake up tomorrow with a Senate that's actually going to stand their ground. But I've been let down too many times.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    When the Republicans were talking about doing this, I was aghast. I thought it was inappropriate to change long-standing rules just because you don't like the way they're being used, and to silence a minority. I don't think the filibuster was ever intended to be a means to stop your colleagues from ever passing anything, and that it's being abused by the Republicans, but wrong is still wrong. It shouldn't be changed.

  • Mike Schryver (unverified)

    I just saw that some of what I said might be confusing. I meant that I do think the Republicans are abusing the filibuster, of course.

  • Dave O'Dell (unverified)

    Before the nuclear option is considered I'd like to see them forced to actually debate their indefensible positions. As it stands now all they have to do is threaten a filibuster.

  • Murphy (unverified)

    "Before the nuclear option is considered I'd like to see them forced to actually debate their indefensible positions. As it stands now all they have to do is threaten a filibuster."

    Spot on! -- It's a bad idea to try to end the filibuster since it's sure to come back to bite us at some point, but making the Repugs actually stand and pontificate for hours on end would make their obstructionism apparent.

  • Bert Lowry (unverified)

    I don't pretend to understand the arcane and confusing rules of the U.S. Senate. There is likely a way for Republicans to avoid actually filibustering while effectively filibustering. I don't know.

    I do think it's important to retain the filibuster as a defense against an out-of-cnotrol majority (as we saw when the Republicans controlled the House, Senate and Presidency).

    Perhaps the best course of action is to highlight how the Republicans are abusing the system. The Dem caucus could hold press conferences, make it the subject of every interview they do, etc. It could also be an effective tool for Dems running against incumbent Republicans, like, ahem, Jeff Merkley.

    How many times has Sen. Smith voted to sustain a filibuster in the last year? That would be a good number to nkow.

  • (Show?)

    Dave and Murphy are right, and it doesn't need to wait until there's a D president either. As Carla says, the obstruction is happening now, in part to save Bush from unpopular vetoes which would feed back into the presidential campaign.

    The Senate Dems should do this as part of fighting an aggressive election campaign, in addition to the main part about the issues being right.

  • LT (unverified)

    Before trying the nuclear option, force everyone who wants to filibuster to do just that----talk (or have their allies talk) for hours on end.

    Threatening to do it shouldn't be enough.

  • Eddie (unverified)

    THE problem as I see it is this:

    The Republican minority is clearly abusing the filibuster. There have been more cloture votes in the 110th than ever before. That being said, evne though republicans are doing what they are best at, i.e. abusing their power, it is the tradition of the senate and I would not want to change them just because the Republicans are doing their usual best to abuse the democratic process to further their political goals. If we did it we could as easily be accused of abusing the democratic process to further their political goals.

    I agree with some others here. The issue is Reid is letting the sue the “gentlemen’s filibuster” where the objecting senator doesn’t have to be there to do it, and all they have to do is threaten to filibuster and Reid simply moves on. Only once I believe has he actually forced them to filibuster. He should do it more often. Move in the cots for senators to sleep outside the chamber and let republicans filibuster a climate bill for days on end. Let them put up or shut up.

  • Stacy6 (unverified)

    I absolutely agree with the idea that Reid should force the Repubs to actually filibuster, none of this gentleman's agreement poo. Currently, the GOP is getting away with massive obstruction and largely hiding the fact that they're getting away with massive obstructionism. And it's not just faux-filibustering - they're playing all sorts of nasty little games to slow down the government. We have got to get these goons out of office!

  • Eric Ramon (unverified)

    occasionally, on days like these, when the sky is overcast and the news matches the sky, I daydream about secession.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    Of course, all this assumes that the DP leadership actually wants something significantly different than the RP leadership. It further assumes that the problem is that DP politicians do (and don't do) what they do because they are "weak", "timid", "lacking in backbone", etc. I don't buy it.

    The puppet show going on in Congress masks the ideological uniformity between the parties.

    The Lie That Keeps the Occupation of Iraq Going

  • Dave Lister (unverified)

    Geez Carla, from the headline I thought you were talking about an attack on Iran!

  • verasoie (unverified)
    <h2>Well, if "Da Faz" had really cared about pushing legislation through against a Republican minority, he could have taken care of business by handily defeating Smith and sparing us the possibility of a Republican filibuster. Alas ....</h2>

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