Senator Reid Goes Nuclear

The Hill reports:

In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules. . . .

Reid appealed a ruling from the chair that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) does not need unanimous consent to force a vote on a motion to suspend the rules to consider amendments after cloture has already been approved.

The chair, which was occupied by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), ruled under the advice of the Senate parliamentarian that Republicans had the right to force a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and proceed to President Obama’s controversial jobs bill.

Republicans planned to use this right of the minority to embarrass Obama by showing that many Democrats do not support his jobs package as originally drafted. But Reid moved to kill their plan by appealing the chair’s ruling, triggering a vote.

The Senate voted almost completely along party lines to overturn the chair’s ruling, 51-48.

More from Roll Call and the Washington Examiner.

Rick Hasen comments:

This could have all kinds of implications for judicial nominations and the workings of the Senate across a range of issues if it is not quickly diffused.

Either this gets dialed back quickly or it escalates, and it does so at a particularly precarious time for Democrats, when Republicans have a realistic chance to control all the branches of the federal government next year.

UPDATE: Additional coverage from HuffPo and Politico.

FURTHER UPDATE: Some cautionary notes from Sarah Binder. More from TPM.

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