Majority Leader Harry Reid's "nuclear option" has passed, meaning Republicans will no longer be able to filibuster executive and judicial nominees. From now on, nominees will only need a simple majority, aka 51 votes, to be confirmed. Supreme Court nominees can still be filibustered.
From inaction for more than a year and the filibustering of four of five nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court, the entire discourse was turned around in the span of an hour. Heritage Action quickly "key-voted" the measure, meaning any Republican dumb enough to vote "no" would incur the wrath of the conservative PAC. The final vote was 48 ayes, 52 nays (confusingly, a "no" vote meant "yes" for dismantling the filibuster). Reid left the juicy 51st vote for himself.
Inside the Senate, furious Republicans who portrayed the Democratic action as a blatant power grab will no doubt try to exact revenge by further slowing the chamber’s activities and making life as complicated as possible for Democrats. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader and an expert student of Senate rules, made it clear that Democrats would rue this day.
“But if they want to play games and set yet another precedent that they will no doubt come to regret, well that’s a choice only they can make,” Mr. McConnell said.
Democrats say Republicans have been so successful in slowing the Senate that there is little more they can do to paralyze the institution, part of the reason that Democrats were finally willing to make the change. For many, the filibuster of three consecutive nominees to the influential federal court in Washington was a last straw after Republicans insisted that Democrats repeatedly produce supermajority votes on even noncontentious nominations. Democrats viewed the Republican strategy as an attempt to force the Senate to waste time on such matters to limit the amount of legislation that could be considered.
Ezra Klein offers Nine reasons the filibuster change is a huge deal:
As Gregory Koger, a University of Miami political scientist who researches the filibuster, told me: “Over the last 50 years, we have added a new veto point in American politics. It used to be the House, the Senate and the president, and now it’s the House, the president, the Senate majority and the Senate minority. Now you need to get past four veto points to pass legislation. That’s a huge change of constitutional priorities. But it’s been done, almost unintentionally, through procedural strategies of party leaders.”