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Senator Roberts Blasts Leader’s Nuclear Option

Fights to Protect Minority Rights in the U.S. Senate

Jul 11 2013

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration today blasted the Senate Majority Leader’s attempts to destroy the rights of the minority by breaking the rules of the U.S. Senate.

“In breaking the rules to change the rules, the majority seeks to destroy what has made the Senate great,” Roberts said.  "The Senate has always been the one place where all Americans could be assured that they would have a voice.

“Every American, no matter what state they happened to live in, or what political party they belonged to, knew they would be represented here.

“Minority views were respected here – even if your party was not in power, you still had a voice.

“The majority seeks to abolish that. They plan to take a step that will surely lead to complete control of this institution by the majority.”

At issue is the effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to eliminate the filibuster during consideration of nominations by requiring only 51 votes to approve a nomination instead of the 60 votes currently needed. To do this, the Majority leader intends to break Senate rules which require 67 votes to make a rules change.

Roberts went on to dispel the notion that this drastic action would only apply to nominations.  

“Make no mistake - the change itself will be less important than the manner in which it is imposed.

“If the majority decides to write new rules with a simple majority vote – to ignore the existing rules that require a supermajority to achieve such a change – it will have put us on a path that will surely lead to total control of this body by the majority.

“As of today, there is only one house of Congress where the majority has total control. 

“The majority wishes there were two.”

Senator Roberts noted that Leader Reid himself opposed this nuclear option when he was in the Minority.

 “The Senate is supposed to be different,” Roberts said. “Here - if you want to be heard on a bill, it will happen. Here - if you want to offer an amendment, you can.

“We haven’t been living up to that recently but that is how the place is supposed to work.

 “And you don’t have to take my word for it. The Majority Leader himself has recognized this.”

In The Good Fight, Senator Reid wrote about the battle over the nuclear option in 2005:

 ‘“there will come a time when we will all be gone, and the institutions that we now serve will be run by men and women not yet living, and those institutions will either function well because we’ve taken care of them, or they will be in disarray and someone else’s problem to solve.’”

He described the nuclear option this way then:

‘“In a fit of partisan fury, they were trying to blow up the Senate.  Senate rules can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, or sixty seven Senators.  The Republicans were going to do it illegally with a simple majority, or fifty one.  Vice President Cheney was prepared to overrule the Senate parliamentarian.  Future generations be damned.”’ 

Vice President Biden said this May 23, 2005 as a member of the Senate:

‘“I say to my friends on the Republican side: You may own the field right now, but you won't own it forever. I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the kind of naked power grab you are doing. But I am afraid you will teach my new colleagues the wrong lessons.

‘“We are only in the Senate as temporary custodians of the Senate. The Senate will go on. Mark my words, history will judge this Republican majority harshly, if it makes this catastrophic move.’

Senator Roberts concluded his remarks by saying: “If the nuclear option is deployed, one day it will become clear to all. 

“When that day comes and people wonder, ‘What happened to the Senate?  When did it die?’ We will know the answer.

“It died the day the nuclear option was triggered.  

“That’s what nuclear devices do. 

“They destroy.”

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