By Lukas Eggen
Ely Times Staff Writer
Nevada Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller were on opposite sides of the “nuclear option,” which the U.S. Senate passed. The rule change eliminates the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senator Heller said this passage could lead to further applications passed just presidential nominees and that it posed a big risk for states like Nevada going forward.
“This is a sad day for the United States Senate and a scary day for Nevada,” Heller said. “While today we are discussing nominations, what assurances are there that today’s changes will not apply to future legislation?”
Senate Majority Leader Reid said the rule change is something that must be done in order to keep Congress from becoming “obsolete.”
“The American people believe Congress is broken,” Reid said. “The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe the American people are right. During this Congress, the 113th Congress, the United States Senate has wasted an unprecedented amount of time on procedural hurdles and partisan obstruction. As a result, the work of this country goes undone. Congress should be passing legislation that strengthens our economy and protects American families. Instead, we’re burning wasted hours and wasted days between filibusters.”
There have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees in U.S. history. More than half of those have come during President Barack Obama’s terms. Using a filibuster on presidential nominees is not a new tactic, and one used by both parties in the past. But Sen. Reid said it was time for a change in the rules and will benefit both parties in the future.
“That’s why it’s time to get the Senate working again,” Reid said. “Not for the good of the current Democratic majority or some future Republican majority but for the good of the country. It’s time to change the Senate, before this institution becomes obsolete.”
But Heller expressed concerns over the rule change. In June of this year, Heller told the Washington Examiner that he did not believe that the rule would only be applied to presidential nominees.
Heller said there would be nothing to stop a future Congress from expanding the rule to eliminate the 60-vote threshold on other things beyond nominees, including Yucca Mountain.
“The Nevada delegation has prevented Yucca Mountain from moving forward, a policy that is already the law of the land,” Heller said. “We have been able to accomplish this using every arrow in our quiver. When you are from a small state, you have to rely on every tool in your toolbox to protect yourself. Now, the opening of Yucca Mountain is a renewed risk. It’s clear that today’s actions by the Senate have made Nevada even more vulnerable to the will of the majority.”
Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman issued a statement refuting Heller’s claims about Yucca Mountain.
“It is disingenuous and frankly not true for Senator Heller to suggest a project that Harry Reid has already defunded and ended would miraculously rise from the dead,” Orthman said.
With the “nuclear option” now in effect, Reid and Heller have taken very different stances on the possible effects, both positive and negative, going forward. But while Heller warns of a possible expansion of the rule in the future, Reid said the passage marked a big moment for the United States Congress and one that represents a positive change.
“(Thursday), Democrats and Independents are saying enough is enough,” Reid said. “This change to the rules regarding presidential nominees will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well. That’s simple fairness. And it’s something both sides should be willing to live to make Washington work again.”