Nuclear option

change the rulesConstitutional optioneliminated rules allowing filibusters on executive branch nominationsNovember 2013 reformsNovember 2013, a rule changereduced
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.wikipedia
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Gang of 14

fourteen senators14 bipartisan senatorsrequired peeling away
The ultimate confrontation was prevented by the Gang of 14, a group of seven Democratic and seven Republican Senators, all of whom agreed to oppose the nuclear option and oppose filibusters of judicial nominees, except in extraordinary circumstances.
The Gang of 14 was a phrase coined to describe the bipartisan group of Senators in the 109th United States Congress who successfully, at the time, negotiated a compromise in the spring of 2005 to avoid the deployment of the so-called "nuclear option" by Senate Republicans over an organized use of the filibuster by Senate Democrats.

Filibuster

filibusteringfilibustersfilibustered
This procedure effectively allows the Senate to decide any issue by simple majority vote, regardless of existing procedural rules such as Rule XXII which requires the consent of 60 senators (out of 100) to end a filibuster for legislation, and 67 for amending a Senate rule. The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush.
The removal or substantial limitation of the filibuster by a simple majority, rather than a rule change, is called the constitutional option by proponents, and the nuclear option by opponents.

Neil Gorsuch

GorsuchNeil M. GorsuchJustice Neil Gorsuch
In April 2017, Senate Republicans led by Mitch McConnell extended the nuclear option to Supreme Court nominations in order to end debate on the nomination of Neil Gorsuch.
On April 6, 2017, Democrats filibustered (prevented cloture) the confirmation vote of Gorsuch, after which the Republicans invoked the "nuclear option", allowing a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to be broken by a simple majority vote.

Supermajority

absolute majoritytwo-thirds majorityqualified majority
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules. On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted 52–48, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against (Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas), to rule that "the vote on cloture under Rule XXII for all nominations other than for the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates is by majority vote," even though the text of the rule requires "three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn" to end debate.
Apart from these constitutional requirements, a Senate rule (except in cases covered by the nuclear option, or of a rule change) requires an absolute supermajority of three fifths to move to a vote through a cloture motion, which closes debate on a bill or nomination, thus ending a filibuster by a minority of members.

Cloture

closureguillotine motioncloture vote
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules. On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted 52–48, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against (Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas), to rule that "the vote on cloture under Rule XXII for all nominations other than for the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates is by majority vote," even though the text of the rule requires "three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn" to end debate.

Neil Gorsuch Supreme Court nomination

nominatednominatesnomination
This was after Senate Democrats filibustered the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States, after the Senate Republicans had previously refused to take up Merrick Garland's nomination by President Obama in 2016.
However, Republicans invoked the "nuclear option", eliminating the filibuster with respect to Supreme Court nominees.

Bill Frist

William H. FristSenator Bill FristWilliam "Bill" Frist M.D.
The maneuver was brought to prominence in 2005 when Majority Leader Bill Frist (Republican of Tennessee) threatened its use to end Democratic-led filibusters of judicial nominees submitted by President George W. Bush.
There has also been controversy regarding the "nuclear option", under which the Republicans would change a rule in the Senate to prevent the filibuster of judicial nominations.

Point of order

points of orderout of order
The option is invoked when the majority leader raises a point of order that only a simple majority is needed to close debate on certain matters.

United States v. Ballin

In 1892, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Ballin that both houses of Congress are parliamentary bodies, implying that they may make procedural rules by majority vote.

Robert Byrd

Robert C. ByrdSenator Robert ByrdSenator Robert C. Byrd
Senator Robert Byrd was later able to effect changes in Senate procedures by majority vote four times when he was majority leader without the support of two-thirds of senators present and voting (which would have been necessary to invoke cloture on a motion for an amendment to the Rules): to ban post-cloture filibustering (1977), to adopt a rule to limit amendments to an appropriations bill (1979), to allow a senator to make a non-debatable motion to bring a nomination to the floor (1980), and to ban filibustering during a roll call vote (1987).
On May 23, 2005, Byrd was one of 14 senators (who became known as the "Gang of 14") to forge a compromise on the judicial filibuster, thus securing up and down votes for many judicial nominees and ending the threat of the so-called nuclear option that would have eliminated the filibuster entirely.

Mark Pryor

Sen. Mark L. Pryor (D, AR)Senator PryorMark Pryor (D-AR)
On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted 52–48, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against (Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas), to rule that "the vote on cloture under Rule XXII for all nominations other than for the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates is by majority vote," even though the text of the rule requires "three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn" to end debate.
This effectively ended any threat of a Democratic filibuster (and thus also avoided the Republican leadership's threatened implementation of the so-called nuclear option).

Carl Levin

LevinCarl M. LevinSenator Carl Levin
On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted 52–48, with all Republicans and three Democrats voting against (Carl Levin of Michigan, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Mark Pryor of Arkansas), to rule that "the vote on cloture under Rule XXII for all nominations other than for the Supreme Court of the UnitedStates is by majority vote," even though the text of the rule requires "three-fifths of the senators duly chosen and sworn" to end debate.
Senator Levin was one of only three Democratic senators to dissent from Harry Reid's leadership to vote against the nuclear option which switched the Senate away from operating on a supermajority basis, to requiring only a simple majority for certain decisions, on November 21, 2013.

January 2018 United States federal government shutdown

2018 shutdownfederal government shutdownUnited States federal government shutdown of January 2018
On January 21, 2018, President Trump said on Twitter that if the shutdown stalemate continued, Republicans should consider the "nuclear option" in the Senate.
On January 21, Trump tweeted, "If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.'s!"

George W. Bush Supreme Court candidates

potential nomineepotential nominee to the Supreme CourtBush nominee
As a result of these ten filibusters, Senate Republicans began to threaten to change the existing Senate rules by using what Senator Trent Lott termed the "nuclear option".

Advice and consent

confirmedSenate confirmationconfirmation
Regarding nominations, Article II, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution says the president "shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ... Judges...."
On November 21, 2013, the Democratic Party, led by then-majority leader Harry Reid, overrode the filibuster of a nomination with a simple majority vote to change the rules.

George W. Bush judicial appointment controversies

confrontationcontroversy involving the confirmation of Republican court of appeals nomineesfilibustered in the U.S. Senate
As a result of these ten filibusters, Senate Republicans began to threaten to change the existing Senate rules by using what Senator Trent Lott termed the "nuclear option".

Reconciliation (United States Congress)

reconciliationbudget reconciliationByrd Rule
The nuclear option is not to be confused with reconciliation, which allows issues related to the annual budget to be decided by a majority vote without the possibility of filibuster.

Up or down vote

up-or-down voteup-or-down decisionup-or-down voting
* Nuclear option

Parliamentary procedure

standing ordersrules of orderparliamentary law
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.

United States Senate

U.S. SenatorUnited States SenatorU.S. Senate
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.

Presiding Officer of the United States Senate

presiding officerPresident of the SenatePresiding Officer of the Senate
The presiding officer denies the point of order based on Senate rules, but the ruling of the chair is then appealed and overturned by majority vote, establishing new precedent.

Analogy

analogousanalogiesanalogical
The term "nuclear option" is an analogy to nuclear weapons being the most extreme option in warfare.

Nuclear weapon

atomic bombnuclear weaponsnuclear
The term "nuclear option" is an analogy to nuclear weapons being the most extreme option in warfare.

Harry Reid

Senate Majority Leader ReidReidHarry M. Reid
In November 2013, Senate Democrats led by Harry Reid used the nuclear option to eliminate the 60-vote rule on executive branch nominations and federal judicial appointments, but not for the Supreme Court.

Riddick's Senate Procedure

(Riddick's Senate Procedure is a compilation by Senate parliamentarians of precedents established throughout the entire history of the Senate by direct rulings of the chair, actions relating to rulings of the chair, or direct Senate action.)