Everyone Called It The “Nuclear Option” Because That Was Its Name

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran an article on the Senate Republicans’ threat to filibuster President Obama’s judicial nominees if they are not “consulted on, and approve of, a nominee” before the nomination is officially made, essentially demanding a pre-emptive veto over the entire process.

The article mentions the showdown during the Bush administration when Senate Republicans threatened to deploy the “nuclear option” to do away with the filibuster of judicial nominees and falsely claims that it was critics of the effort who used that sort of “overheated rhetoric”:

Four years ago, the Republican majority came close to abolishing the filibuster rule. With Vice President Dick Cheney in the Senate president’s chair, they planned to change rules so judges could be approved by a simple majority. Opponents called this the “nuclear option” in the overheated rhetoric of the time.

In fact, it was Senate Republicans who coined the term back in 2003 because they knew that deploying it would be a “form of mutually assured destruction.”  This Washington Times article from May of that year contains the first public use of the term regarding the filibuster of judges and it was titled “GOP Senators Keep ‘Nuclear Option’ in Reserve for Judges”:

Republicans could immediately break the current filibusters against two of President Bush’s judicial nominees with a rarely used parliamentary procedure that would confirm them through a simple majority vote, according to a plan under consideration by Senate Republicans.

The tactic would be so drastic in the usually congenial Senate that Republicans refer to it as their “nuclear option.”

It wasn’t “critics” who were calling it the “nuclear option” because they were over-reacting – they were calling it that because that was the name given to the plan by the Senate Republicans who were contemplating it.

On a related note, the article notes that the Committee for Justice is claiming that it does not necessarily support the GOP’s pre-emptive filibuster threat:

“Most conservatives feel we should stick with the principle that every nominee should get an up-and-down vote,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a group that lobbies for conservative nominees. “They want the Senate courtesies to be respected.”

During the Bush era, Republicans repeatedly said the president’s nominees deserved a vote on the Senate floor. However, Levey said, the GOP’s reluctance to consider filibusters could change quickly. It “will change if [Democrats] try to jam through judicial activists,” he said.

Interesting, but it doesn’t really seem to jibe with the post Levey wrote last week on the CFJ’s blog praising the letter as a sign that the GOP was united on the issue and willing to do what it takes to stop Obama’s nominees.

It is sort of like how the Judicial Confirmation Network claimed back in January it was committed to the principle that every nominee deserved an up-or-down vote and then, last week, praised the Senate Republicans for threatening to prevent Obama’s judges from receiving an up-or-down vote.