Senate Democrats upended the chamber's normal procedure Thursday morning, restoring a sense of normalcy to the oft-dysfunctional institution by changing the filibuster rules for confirming judicial and executive-branch nominees. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) turned to the so-called "nuclear option"—a parliamentary trick to write the rules with just 51 votes, rather than the standard two-thirds majority required to change Senate procedures. Clearing a filibuster on those appointees will no longer take a 60-vote supermajority, and President Barack Obama's judges and White House staff can now be approved by a simple up-or-down vote.
It's not an outrageous concept. Senate rules were changed regularly under these basic-majority votes when the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia was majority leader in the 1970s. Yet on Thursday, Republicans acted as if the world had ended and democracy would soon collapse thanks to Reid's egregious change of the rules. It's hard to take their doom-and-gloom predictions too seriously. Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, were amped to end filibusters of judicial nominations in 2005 until Democrats caved and cut a deal.
Here's a sample of the some of the most hyperbolic Republican reactions to filibuster reform:
1. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on the Senate floor:
"He [Harry Reid] is not a dictator. He does not have the power to dictate how this Senate operates."
2. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.):
Senate majority leader Harry Reid's temper tantrum unfolding now on Senate floor— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) November 21, 2013
3. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on CNN:
"What we really need is an anti-bullying ordinance in the Senate. I mean, now we’ve got a big bully. Harry Reid says he's just gonna break the rules and make new rules."
"They're governed by the newer members…who have never been in a minority, who are primarily driving this issue. They succeeded and they will pay a very, very heavy price for it."
5. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.):
"Most dangerous and consequential change in the rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them." -- Lamar Alexander— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) November 21, 2013
6. Sen. Alexander, again, this time on the floor of the Senate:
"This action today creates a perpetual opportunity for the tyranny of the majority because it permits a majority in this body to do whatever it wants to do any time it wants to do it. This should be called Obamacare II, because it is another example of the use of raw partisan political party for the majority to do whatever it wants to do any time it wants to do it."
7. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on his Facebook page:
"Rather than fix the Obamacare disaster, today Harry Reid doubled down on the brass knuckles partisan power politics that produced it—jam it through, no compromise, unilaterally make up new rules whenever needed. This isn't just a shame for the Senate; it's scary and dictatorial for our country."
8. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.):
9. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) right before the nuclear-option vote:
"Just yesterday, I saw a story about a guy getting a letter in the mail saying his dog, his dog had qualified for insurance under Obamacare. So yeah, I would probably be running for the exit, too, if I had supported this law. I would be looking to change the subject, change the subject just as Senate Democrats have been doing with their threats of going nuclear and changing the Senate rules on nominations."
10. Sen. Dan Coates (R-Ind.) on his Facebook page:
"This action to change the Senate rules and weaken the Founding Fathers' vision for checks and balances is yet another disturbing power grab and reminds the public of how the Democrats jammed through the unwanted health care law."
"The Democrats' vote to invoke the 'nuclear option' and fundamentally change the rules of the Senate is a raw power grab which is deeply disappointing. Like the manner in which they rammed through Obamacare on party line votes, they have now broken the rules of the Senate to allow them to do the same for the president's executive and judicial nominees."
12. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.):
"The silver lining is that there will come a day when roles are reversed. When that happens, our side will likely nominate and confirm lower court and Supreme Court nominees with 51 votes regardless of whether the Democrats actually buy into this fanciful notion that they can demolish the filibuster on lower court nominees and still preserve it for Supreme Court."