UPDATE: Frist Threatens Use of So-Called ‘Nuclear Option’

UPDATE: Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) challenged Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) on the floor of the Senate today, asking where in the Constitution was it written that a nominee has the right to an up or down vote. Senator Frist admitted, “It’s not in the Constitution that a United States Senator specifically has the up or down – the right for an up or down vote,” according to the Center for American Progress.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) on FOX News Sunday threatened to use the so-called ‘nuclear option’ if Democrats launch a filibuster against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. FOX News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked Frist whether he would “move to impose the nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules and make it easier to cut off a filibuster” if Democrats tried to block a vote on Alito. Frist said, “Yes,” adding that he thinks it would be “unconscionable…to deny Sam Alito an up or down vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

“Senator Frist has thrown down the gauntlet at a time when the country least needs it,” said Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to the Washington Post. 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.

The nuclear option was taken off the table in May when a bipartisan group of Senators, known as the “Gang of 14,” signed an agreement that would allow filibusters on judicial nominees only in “extraordinary circumstances.” However, what constitutes “extraordinary circumstances” has never been defined.

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FOX News Sunday 12/11/05; Washington Post 12/12/05; Feminist Majority; Center for American Progress 12/12/05

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