A group of Republican senators are considering enacting a new “nuclear option” that would limit debate time on the confirmation of President Donald Trump’s nominees and diminish Democratic power in the Sentate.
The nuclear option, so called because it is viewed as a procedural weapon of last resort, is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override a rule – specifically the 60-vote rule to close debate – by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules. It has been used twice by Senate leaders in recent years, and some Republicans contend that it is time to employ the controversial tactic again, The Hill reported.
“It’s completely gotten out of hand,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R.-Wis. “It’s ridiculous we have all these 30 hours of post-cloture time. It’s chewing up the clock and we can’t address the major problems facing this nation. I’ve been recommending for quite some time to utilize the Harry Reid precedent to change the rules [with] 51 votes.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is not yet in agreement with Johnson, who acknowledged that there are not enough Republican votes to change the rules unilaterally.
Other Republicans such as Sens. Ted Cruz, R.-Texas, and Steve Daines, R.-Mont., said on Wednesday that they also support enacting the nuclear option if Democrats refuse to reduce the length of procedural time required for nominees.
According to Republican senators, the Trump administration has complained that more than 300 Senate-confirmed positions remain unfilled, and they are being pressured to address the problem.
Some Republicans, such as Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, oppose using the nuclear option to speed up floor business.
Republican leaders are working to negotiate a deal with Democrats to limit how much time must elapse on the Senate floor after lawmakers vote to proceed on a nominee. The Democrats, however, are showing no interest in negotiating a deal that would hasten staffing of the Trump administration.
Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate GOP leader, said support for the nuclear option could increase if Democrats refuse to speed the processing time for nominees.
“Ideally it would be the regular order, but I suppose we’ll see,” he said. “Our members would like to have a vote and see where the Democrats are. If they continue this practice of just dragging things out and making it really impossible to get anything done then I could see our members saying, ‘enough already.’”