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Reid: Low approval of Congress justifies triggering nuclear option in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued on Sunday that rules reform is needed in Congress because it has a lower approval rating that North Korea.

“Is there anyone out there in the real world that believes that what’s going on in Congress of the United States is good? Our approval rating is lower than North Korea’s,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.

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Republicans have charged that triggering the nuclear option, which Reid is weighing, will destroy the character of the Senate. They say if Reid changes the filibuster rule with a special tactic that requires only 51 votes, it would amount to “breaking the rules to change the rules.”  Under the chamber’s standing rules, 67 votes are needed to make changes.

Reid sought to minimize the reform he wants to implement with the nuclear option, so dubbed because it will likely cause a meltdown in bipartisan relations. 

“Changing the rules is like the sky is falling?” he said. “We’ve done it — during the last 36 years — we’ve done it 18 times. We did it just a year ago.


“The changes we’re making are very, very minimal. What we’re doing is saying, ‘Look American people, shouldn’t President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?’ The 15 people that we’ve filed cloture on that are pending they’ve been waiting an average of nine months.”

Republicans have filibustered 15 of Obama’s executive-branch nominees, Reid said, adding that only 20 such nominees have been filibustered throughout history.

Reid said he has had to contend with 420 GOP filibusters since he because Senate majority leader in 2007. During a similar span of time, his predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson faced only one filibuster, Reid said.

Reid invoked the nation’s founding fathers, claiming they wanted the Senate to approve the president’s nominees by simple-majority votes.  

Reid disputed a comparison to 2005, when he and other Democrats fiercely resisted an effort by then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to use the nuclear option to bar Democrats from blocking then President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.

David Gregory, the host of “Meet the Press”, noted that Reid subsequently accused Republicans of trying to “blow up the Senate” and change the rules “illegally”.

“We’re not touching judges, that’s what they were talking about,” he said. “This is not judges, this is not legislation. This is allowing the people of America to have a president who can have his team, to have his team in place. This is nothing like [what] went on before.”