McCain: ‘I’m angry’ about rule change

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday that he would get over his anger with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for using the “nuclear option,” but he would be forever saddened by what the rule change would do to the institution.

“I’m angry, yes, but I’ll get over that anger,” McCain said on the Senate floor. “It’s the sorrow of what has been done to this institution that will be with us a long time.”

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Earlier Thursday, 52 Senate Democrats voted to change Senate filibuster rules on presidential nominees. A motion to end debate on most presidential nominees will require only a simple majority now, rather than 60 votes.

Reid said the move was necessary because Republicans had blocked up-or-down votes on three of Obama’s nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court: Robert Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett. And Caitlin Halligan withdrew her nomination because of GOP threats to block her confirmation.

Reid had threatened to use the nuclear option — changing the rules with a simple majority instead of a supermajority — several times this year. But each time lawmakers gathered to discuss alternatives. At the beginning of the year Republicans vowed not to filibuster any of President Obama’s nominees unless there were “extraordinary circumstances.” Democrats say the GOP has reneged on that promise.

McCain accused Reid of being a hypocrite because Reid opposed the nuclear option when his party was in the minority. McCain added that the rule change was “damning” to the Senate.

“What exactly happened today is not just a shift in power to appoint judges,” McCain said. “But what we really did today and what is so damning ... is if a Majority can change the rules, then there are no rules. That is the only conclusion anyone could draw from what we did today.”