The Senate is less than a day away from a vote that could change the rules of the Senate to ban all filibusters of judicial nominees, including Supreme Court nominees. In order to amend the Senate’s Rule 22, which lays out the requirements for ending debate, Senate Republicans plan to break the Senate’s rules. To change the Senate rules requires a two-thirds vote. The nuclear option, however, would change Rule 22 by only a simple majority vote. The nuclear option would ban filibusters on judicial nominees—including Supreme Court nominees—by requiring only a simple 51-vote majority to close debate and move to a vote on the judges. Present rules require 60 votes to close the debate.
“[T]he goal of the Republican leadership and their allies in the White House is to pave the way for a Supreme Court nominee who would only need 50 votes for confirmation rather than 60. They don’t want consensus, they want confrontation,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) on the Senate floor last week. If the nuclear option passes, “[t]hat contempt for the rule of law and the law of rules will set a new precedent – and illegal precedent – that will always remain on the pages of Senate history,” Reid told George Washington University law school graduates, according to the Washington Post.
“If President Bush is able to pack the Supreme Court with extreme right-wing justices, women stand to lose the gains of the last 40 years, especially our right to reproductive choice and our hard-won protections against sex discrimination,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority.
Several key Republican Senators have not yet stated publicly how they plan to vote on the nuclear option, including Susan Collins (ME), Chuck Hagel (NE), John Warner (VA), and Arlen Specter (PA).