Levin: Senate is moving down ‘destructive path’

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said Thursday that the Senate moved down a “destructive path” Thursday after most Democrats voted to change filibuster rights on presidential nominees.

“Today we are once again moving down a destructive path,” Levin said on the Senate floor. “I support changing the rules to allow the president to get executive nominees in position … [but] pursuing the nuclear option removes an important check on majority overreach.”

ADVERTISEMENT
Fifty-two Democratic senators voted to limit the minority party’s right to filibuster executive branch and judicial nominees. Under the old rules, 60 votes were necessary to end debate on nominees, but Democrats changed the rules to require a simple majority.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was prompted to use the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules with a simple majority after Republicans blocked three of President Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court.

The nuclear option — which gets its name from the damage done to bipartisan relationships — allows a simple majority to change the Senate rules rather than the usual supermajority.

Levin, along with Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote against the rule change.

Reid had threatened to use the nuclear option several times this year. But each time, lawmakers gathered to discuss alternatives — partly at Levin’s insistence. At the beginning of the year Republicans vowed not to filibuster any of President Obama’s nominees unless there were “extraordinary circumstances,” but Democrats say the GOP has reneged on that promise.

Levin said Republican obstruction was also partly to blame for the need for a rule change but said he didn’t support the way Democrats changed the rule. Rule changes usually require a supermajority.

Republicans had warned Democrats not to change the filibuster rules because it would set a precedent that would allow the GOP to do the same thing if it becomes the majority party in the Senate.

Levin said the rule change made the Senate more like the House.

“The House of Representatives can change the rules whenever it wants," Levin said. "This body has not done that. … We’ve come close to doing it but we’ve never done it until today."