Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and his top aides are warning the detonation of the so-called “nuclear option” will backfire on Senate Democrats after the results of next year’s election.
The vote gives the 2014 mid-term elections even higher stakes and puts more attention on Kentucky’s Senate race, which could pit McConnell up against Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes next fall.
After months of debating the use of the 60-vote cloture maneuver to block President Obama’s judicial nominees and other measures, Democratic Leader Harry Reid moved forward with changing the Senate rules.
By a 52-48 vote, it now takes just a simple majority vote to end debate and move ahead with presidential nominations other than Supreme Court justices.
“If you want to play games and set yet another precedent that you’ll no doubt come to regret. I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle you’ll regret this,” said McConnell. “And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
Others in McConnell’s camp, such as former chief of staff Josh Holmes, who is working on the senator’s re-election bid, also derided the nuclear option. But he put the vote in even starker terms if the GOP captures the majority next fall.
“I pity the Democrats who have to deal with a freshly re-elected Majority Leader McConnell with this new rule change,” says Holmes.
Observers point out that the bulk of Democrats serving in the Senate have never been in the minority, but liberal groups and President Obama praised the decision as a way to overcome obstruction.
Asked about Reid’s move earlier this morning, Grimes appeared to embrace the need for filibuster reform overall given that she has run ads slamming McConnell’s filibuster tactics.
But Grimes only said using the nuclear option was “worth exploring” not if she backed the idea. Asked if Grimes supported the rule change, campaign spokeswoman Charly Norton delivered a statement that was even foggier than the candidate’s remarks.
“It is time to cease the political games on both sides and end Mitch McConnell’s Washington gridlock that has failed Kentucky’s families and small businesses. Democrats and Republicans alike have been too busy trying to score partisan points instead of dealing with the important issues that face our country,” says Norton.
WFPL’s follow-up questions regarding the need for the minority caucus to have a filibuster and how Grimes would have voted on the nuclear option were not returned.
McConnell’s campaign doesn’t appear to mind the non-committal answers, however. The senator’s team pounced on her comments for siding with the president.
“By coming out in favor of giving Barack Obama unchecked power far beyond the appointment of radical judges, Alison Lundergan Grimes proved definitively today that she is dangerously out of touch with mainstream Kentucky values,” says McConnell campaign spokeswoman Allison Moore. “Alison’s ill-conceived position would ensure that Kentuckians would not have the power to stop things like cap and trade, which would devastate coal country, restrictive gun control, more stimulus spending, Obamacare expansion, tax increases, and activist judges who rewrite laws to fit their liberal agenda.”