A Senate rule change championed by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid could leave Democrats powerless to stop any of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet appointments.
In 2013, Sen. Reid and other Democrats pushed forward with a rule change dubbed the “nuclear option” to eliminate filibusters for all presidential nominations except Supreme Court justices. This means that a simple majority of 51 votes instead of 60 votes is necessary to confirm executive office appointments.
The Republicans are set to enter 2017 with at least 51 senators and can gain another seat with a likely win in the December Senate run-off race in Louisiana.
So while Democratic National Committee interim chairwoman Donna Brazile has called for the Senate to reject Trump’s nomination of Republican Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as attorney general, Trump’s cabinet will get confirmed as long Republicans vote along party lines.
Many Democrats have publicly displayed a lack of regret for the rule change.
Sen. Reid’s spokeswoman Kristen Orthman told The Washington Post, “Sen. Reid has no regrets on invoking the nuclear option because of Republicans’ unprecedented obstruction.” She added, “If Republicans want to go on record supporting radicals, that’s their decision and they will have to live with it.”
“I have absolutely no regret,” Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley, who pushed for the nuclear option, told CNN. Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer opposed the 2013 rule change and told The Washington Post, “I wanted 60 for Supreme Court and Cabinet, but I didn’t prevail.”
In 2013, Republican senators said the rule change would not benefit the Democrats long-term.
“Democrats won’t be in power in perpetuity. This is a mistake — a big one for the long run. Maybe not for the short run. Short-term gains, but I think it changes the Senate tremendously in a bad way,” Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said at the time.
Trump’s transition team did not immediately return a request for comment.