Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared Thursday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) would be remembered as the “worst leader of the Senate” in history if he uses the “nuclear option.”
“He’s going to be remembered as the worst leader of the Senate ever,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “And it makes me sad. ... It’s a shame that we’ve come to this.”
“The only person I know who thinks things are going along just fine here is [McConnell],” Reid countered. “I don’t want him to feel sorry for the Senate — certainly not for me.”
Reid is contemplating using the nuclear option — changing the Senate rules on a simple-majority vote — in order to thwart Republican efforts to block some of President Obama's Cabinet nominees.
He said Democrats feel confidant about their plans to change the Senate’s rules to eliminate the minority party’s power to filibuster executive and judicial branch nominees.
“I had a very nice caucus today,” he said. “My caucus was very thoughtful. We heard from out of my 54 senators, we probably heard from 25 or 26 of them."
At the beginning of the 113th Congress, Reid and McConnell agreed not to change the rules without a supermajority as long as Republicans didn’t block the administration’s nominees unless there were “extraordinary circumstances.”
Reid argued that Republicans have broken their agreement by blocking several nominees, while McConnell has accused Reid of trying to “break the rules to change the rules.”
Reid has set up votes on seven of President Obama’s nominees, including controversial picks such as Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
He also scheduled votes on Sharon Block, Richard Griffin Jr., and Mark Gaston Pearce to serve on the National Labor Relations Board.
Democrats say if Republicans block these nominees, they will change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote. The tactic is known as the nuclear option because it would cause a meltdown in Senate relations.
Republicans say the nominees to the financial protection bureau and the labor board are unacceptable because Obama attempted to appoint them during a Senate recess last year. The D.C. Circuit Court subsequently ruled the appointments invalid because the Senate was meeting occasionally in pro-forma session.
Senate Republicans have warned that they will block any legislation from passing before the 2014 elections if Reid goes nuclear, and will take their case to voters.
—Alexander Bolton contributed to this report.
Updated at 5:22 p.m.