Let’s talk about the Nuclear Option
4 mins read

Let’s talk about the Nuclear Option

Not to bring down the mood too hard but there’s something that we need to talk about. On Sept.18, just a matter of days ago, United States Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg sadly passed away due to multiple health complications.  

This death leaves a hole in the hearts of many, and more topically, an empty chair on the highest court in the land. This comes as if the stakes for the 2020 election weren’t already high enough, fantastic.

This could mark the third of President Trump’s selections to be sworn in. Assuming the president follows his current trend of nominating younger members of the Court, this could mean his three picks will serve for upwards of 20 years. 

Now that that’s out of the way let’s talk about the controversial and for some reason totally legal thing that Senators love to use, and why it continues to set a dark precedent.  

I’m sure that a lot of you know what I’m talking about, but that you never really thought hard about how or why it exists — or how it works for that matter. The Nuclear Option. 

It’s called that because it’s meant to be a last resort to stop long-standing damage to the Republic by using a small majority to push through a reform that could stop an otherwise negative outcome in the long run.  

The way it works is simple — well, not really but I’ll try my best to explain it in a simple way. Basically it works by overriding a Senate rule that requires a supermajority to change Senate rules prior to convening. This dates back to the early 20th century when filibustering first started seeing restrictions put in place.

The real groundwork for the Nuclear Option starts with Nixon because of course it does. He upheld a system that allowed a 60-40 majority to make changes to senate rules as opposed to a 67-33 majority. It was mainly used to stop filibusters. For the most part, this power was never abused and was actually used as intended. 

“Okay, so where’s the issue?” short answer? Modern partisan hackery. Long answer? Well, in 2005 the US Senate had a bit of a hissy fit over a Supreme Court (SC) nominee, Democrats claimed that the Republican nominee was too Republican, no seriously, that was why they didn’t want them on the SC.

Another reason, the Democrats in the Senate listed was that in prior years the Republicans had shut down a lot of Democratic propositions and — you get the point, partisan hackery.

Democrats and Republicans don’t like each other because of reasons and we have to suffer for it. Anyhow, in 2005 the Democrats threatened to filibuster and the Republicans threatened to use the Nuclear Option to stop that filibuster, and the Democrats said they would shut down the Senate if they did. A right mess, I encourage you to go look into it, it’s a fun read and a great example of how garbage our political system is. 

The last use of the Nuclear Option removed the requirement for a three-fifths vote to end filibusters. This was accompanied by President Donald Trump’s support for the end of the Senate shutdown that we so frequently see.

It’s worth mentioning that the Republicans opposed the Obama Administration for most of his terms and are now upset the Democrats are doing the same thing to Trump. 

Now I bring you to the modern era where the Nuclear Option is once again back in the realm of possibility as yet another presidential nominee will be put up to vote.

Our President is a little flippant when it comes to sweeping reforms, and they seem to come much swifter when it involves the party he doesn’t like.

So I guess where I want to leave off is this. Do you feel comfortable in a system where the Government changes the rules they operate by without your direct input? Because I sure don’t.