Mitch Feels Lucky, Makes Harry's Day
October 7, 2011 7:22 PM Subscribe
Last night, the Unites States Senate voted successfully to invoke cloture (end debate) on S.1619, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform Act of 2011
. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) filed a series of motions to suspend the rules in an effort to force a vote on President Obama's American Jobs Act
[PDF]. That's when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) nuked the Senate
Senator Reid objected to the motion to proceed, but the Senate parliamentarian overruled his objection. To the surprise of everyone in the chamber, Reid used a procedural option known as the "nuclear option" to overturn the parliamentarian's ruling on a 51-48 vote. In addition to defeating the pending motions, the vote changed the rules of the Senate to stop the minority party from offering post-cloture amendments. This is the first use of the so-called nuclear option
), which came to public attention in 2005, when then-Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) threatened to use it to break a Democrat-led filibuster of some of President George W. Bush's judicial nominees. Following an unusually frank post-vote debate, the members agreed to use the extended Columbus Day weekend as a cooling-off period. Votes on the currency bill and President Obama's jobs bill are expected when the Senate returns to session next week.
Article 1, Section 5
of the Constitution authorizes each chamber of the Congress to make its own rules, and the rules of the Senate
are notoriously complex. The Bill Summary and Status for S.1619 includes a list of all Congressional actions which provides a play-by-play account of the maneuvering
The scope of the rules change is very narrow, and it's not yet clear just how this will affect the body
. Many observers of the Senate were shocked to see the nuclear option used over a piece of legislation that was not controversial and which enjoyed bipartisan support, particularly when it's unlikely that a companion bill will be brought up for a vote in the House of Representatives.