Senate GOP vows payback if Reid triggers nuclear option on nominees

Senate Republicans are threatening to use the nuclear option to repeal ObamaCare and make other major legislative changes if Democrats use it to confirm judicial nominations.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), a former member of the GOP leadership close to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has assembled an agenda Republicans would pursue with the nuclear option if they retake control of the upper chamber.

ADVERTISEMENT
It includes repealing the 2010 Affordable Care Act, converting all federal education spending into school vouchers and scholarships to middle-income and low-income children, opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling and repealing the estate tax.

“Sen. Reid is an able and experienced leader. He knows that if Democrats figure out a way to do anything they want with 51 votes, Republicans can figure that out too. And if we’re in charge, we’ll do it.

They are focusing their threat squarely on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) by warning the nuclear option could be used to ram through legislation to resume construction of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada, a project he opposes.


“A vote to end the filibuster is a vote to complete Yucca Mountain,” said Alexander. “If we have 51 votes, we can order the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to issue a license. We can order the Department of Energy to build it, and we can fund it.”

Senate Democrats are mulling the nuclear option to break a logjam of President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees. The controversial tactic would be used to eliminate filibusters of nominees by changing Senate rules with a simple majority vote.

Under regular order, it takes 67 votes — two thirds of the chamber — to change Senate rules. The nuclear option would circumvent that process by changing Senate rules by overturning a ruling by the parliamentarian with 51 votes.

McConnell said Tuesday that if Democrats change the Senate rules for nominees, they should expect Republicans to prohibit filibusters on sweeping legislative changes.

“It would be naïve to assume that you could break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate only for nominations,” he said. “There would be a widespread clamor across our conference, would we be in the majority, to take that precedent and apply it to everything else.”

Reid on Tuesday declined to comment on the Republican warnings.