In U.S. politics, the "nuclear option" is a filibuster-reform plan for the majority party in the United States Senate to change Senate precedents without a supermajority. This option is said to allow a simple majority to override the rules of the Senate and end a filibuster or other delaying tactic. In contrast, the cloture rule requires a supermajority of 60 votes (out of 100) to end a filibuster. The new interpretation becomes effective, both for the immediate circumstance and as a precedent, if it is upheld by a majority vote.
Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss.) first called the option "nuclear" in March 2003; the metaphor of a nuclear strike refers to the majority party unilaterally imposing a change to the filibuster rule, which might provoke retaliation by the minority party.
Although it is not provided for in the formal rules of the Senate, support for the nuclear option is found in a 1957 opinion by Vice President Richard Nixon (who added that he was expressing his personal opinion, not making a ruling from the chair), as well as a series of votes in 1975, some of which were reconsidered shortly thereafter. Proponents have referred to it as the constitutional option, especially when applied to filibusters on judicial nominees, on the rationale that the United States Constitution implies that the Senate can act by a majority vote unless the Constitution itself requires a supermajority.
The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush. In response to this threat, Democrats threatened to shut down the Senate and prevent consideration of all routine and legislative Senate business. The ultimate confrontation was prevented by the Gang of 14, a group of seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators, all of whom agreed to oppose the nuclear option and oppose filibusters of judicial nominees, except in extraordinary circumstances.
The nuclear option was raised again following the congressional elections of 2012, this time with Senate Democrats in the majority (but short of a supermajority). The Democrats have been the majority party in the Senate since 2007 but only briefly did they have the 60 votes necessary to halt a filibuster. The Hill reported that Democrats will "likely" use the nuclear option in January 2013 to effect filibuster reform, although as of mid-November supporters of filibuster reform did not even have the support of 51 Senators, according to Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of the nuclear option.
The nuclear option is not to be confused with reconciliation, which allows issues related to the annual budget to be decided by a majority vote without the possibility of filibuster.
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... and the short-term end to the "nuclear option" debate ... Carl Levin to shut the door on the nuclear option by obtaining a ruling from the chair – at that moment, Senator John E ... failed the Republican leadership, thus, retained the nuclear option ...
... attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option" (also known as the "constitutional option") ... an "extraordinary circumstance", the Republicans involved would agree to vote against the nuclear option if implemented, and three of the most contested Bush appellate court nominees (Janice ... have become less likely if the so-called "nuclear option" had been successful, but such a defeat could have become more likely if the nuclear option had been ...
... federal judicial appointments, the term "nuclear option" has come to be used generically for a procedural maneuver with potentially serious consequences, to be used as ... the validity of the Hunting Act 2004 the UK House of Lords used "nuclear option" to describe the events of 1832, when the then-government threatened to create hundreds of new Liberal ...
Famous quotes containing the words option and/or nuclear:
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