President Obama on Thursday expressed strong support for Senate Democrats’ move to enact the so-called “nuclear option” and alter congressional rules to clear the way for judicial and other executive nominees.
“Enough is enough,” the president said during remarks in the White House press briefing room. “I’m a former senator. So is my vice president. We both value any senator’s duty to advise and consent. It’s important we take that very seriously. But a few now refuse to treat that duty of advise and consent with the respect it deserves. … What’s at sake here is not my ability to fulfill my constitutional duty. What’s at stake is the ability of any president to fulfill his or her constitutional duty. Public service is not a game. It is a privilege.”
The nuclear option changes Senate rules and eliminates the possibility of a filibuster for presidential nominees, clearing the way for the White House to flood the chamber with prospective officials who, thus far, have been blocked by Republicans.
The Senate voted 52-48 earlier Thursday to move forward with the controversial change, with GOP leaders vehemently objecting and casting the step as a power grab by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat.
The nuclear option does not extend to Supreme Court nominees, though Republicans quickly moved to include those judicial picks and vowed they’ll use the new rules to push through their own high-court picks next time a Republican occupies the White House.
The Senate rules fight also gives the White House the opportunity to change the conversation away from the botched rollout of Obamacare, which has consumed Washington for the past month. Mr. Obama, who as a senator opposed the idea of the nuclear option, said Thursday’s step will help the gears of government work more effectively and should end some of the gridlock that’s gripped Washington in recent years.
“We can’t let it become normal,” Mr. Obama said of the tactic of blocking his nominees through filibuster. “So I support the step a majority of senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business. More specifically, the way the Senate does business.”