Senate Republicans feud over whether to keep nuke option

Senate Republicans feud over whether to keep nuke option
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans met behind closed doors Tuesday to debate whether they should reverse changes to the filibuster that made it easier for Senate Democrats to confirm President Obama’s nominees.

GOP lawmakers and senators-elect are at odds over whether their new majority should restore a threshold of 60 votes for breaking a filibuster of most presidential nominees. 

ADVERTISEMENT
While many expressed anger over last years’ move by the Democrats and Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidWeek ahead: House to revive Yucca Mountain fight Warren builds her brand with 2020 down the road 'Tuesday Group' turncoats must use recess to regroup on ObamaCare MORE (D-Nev.) to unilaterally change the rules through a procedure known as the “nuclear option,” some say the new rules should be kept in case a Republican wins the White House in 2016.

Sen. John ThuneJohn ThuneOvernight Tech: FCC chief poised to unveil plans on net neutrality | Uber eyes flying cars | Media rules under scrutiny Groups urge lawmakers to oppose 'devastating' net neutrality rollback McConnell signals Republican-only path on tax reform MORE (R-S.D.) said Republicans will take their time reaching a decision.

“A lot of our guys still feel very strongly about just the wrongness of what [Reid] did and the position it’s put everybody here in the Senate in,” Thune said.

“Now we’re having to go through a fairly lengthy process to figure out, in the majority, how we want to proceed.”

Senators leaving the meeting were tight-lipped about their deliberations.

“Robust discussion, no decision,” Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchCongress nears deal on help for miners GOP, Trump administration huddle on tax reform Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan MORE (R-Utah) said. 

Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzKansas Republican sworn in after special election Overnight Finance: Dems want ObamaCare subsidies for extra military spending | Trade battle: Woe, Canada? | Congress nears deal to help miners | WH preps to release tax plan Cruz: Seize money from drug lords to fund border wall MORE (R-Texas) told reporters that, while the nuclear option was a “mistake,” he believes the new GOP Senate should keep the rules.

“I don’t think there should be one rule for Democrats and one rule for Republicans,” he said. 

“I think the principle, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,’ should apply.”

Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderGroups warn of rural health 'crisis' under ObamaCare repeal Trump’s Army pick faces tough confirmation fight Trump faces risky ObamaCare choice MORE (R-Tenn.) said the new 51-vote threshold for most nominations should stand but argued Republicans should codify it using the standing rules of the Senate, which requires 67 votes, instead of using the same procedural rule used by Democrats that only needed a majority.

Alexander said he might introduce legislation with Sen. Mike LeeMike LeeTrump takes aim at Obama monuments Trump should work with Congress to block regulations on prepaid cards Sweeping change at DOJ under Sessions MORE (R-Utah) that would require only a majority vote for all nominations.

Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Defense: US moving missile defense system to South Korea | Dems want justification for Syria strike | Army pick pushes back against critics of LGBT record Graham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea Graham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump MORE (R-S.C.) and John McCainJohn McCainGraham: There are 'no good choices left' with North Korea Graham: North Korea shouldn't underestimate Trump Give Trump the silent treatment MORE (R-Ariz.) both said keeping the new rules would be dangerous. 

Graham said that, while some Republicans are “salivating” over the possibility of being able to more easily confirm their picks under a Republican president, removing the filibuster destroys incentives “to go across the aisle and pick up a few votes.”

“I think that moderating exercise has served this country well. You take that out, you just watch in the next coming decades what kind of judges you’re going to get.”

Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioTop Trump officials push border wall as government shutdown looms Rubio defends Trump: 'This whole flip-flop thing is a political thing' Rubio: Shutdown would have 'catastrophic impact' on global affairs MORE (R-Fla.), who is seen as a contender for the White House in 2016, said that, while he hasn’t made up his mind about the rule change, lawmakers should play the long game.

“We’re going to have Democrat presidents in the future at some point as well; we can’t make our decision based on that,” he said. 

“We have to do what’s right for the country, for the Senate as an institution, for the best public policy.”

Graham said both veterans and newcomers to the Senate are on both sides of the issue.

“It’s a hard thing to figure out, but it’s always been easy for me,” he said. “Before I got here, the place seemed to work OK. I don’t want to screw it up.”