Nuke the ‘nuclear option’
President Harry Truman used his nuclear option against Japan in August 1945 — twice.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., warned again Thursday that he’s strongly considering using his nuclear option to advance President Barack Obama’s long-stalled nominations to the federal judiciary, Cabinet and assorted agencies.
Fortunately, those aren’t the same nuclear options. President Truman’s was the atomic bomb. Majority Leader Reid’s is the cloture maneuver that would reduce the number of votes needed for confirmation from a filibuster-proof 60 to a simple majority of 51.
Of course, Sen. Reid and other prominent Democrats sounded harshly aghast about Republican threats to exercise that nuclear option to approve President George W. Bush’s nominations back when the GOP controlled both the White House and the Senate.
And now many top Republicans are predictably crying foul because Sen. Reid is making that same threat.
But beyond the perspective change that power, or the lack of it, can bring, lies this nagging question:
Why must our bickering Senate luminaries call this legislative procedure a “nuclear option” in the first place?
The dire tone of that word pairing wildly overstates the stakes of whether — or how — the Senate confirms presidential appointments.
It even conjures up harrowing memories of the Doomsday Machine on the original “Star Trek” television series.
Federal lawmakers in the upper chamber should re-brand their “nuclear option” to the “filibuster buster.”
Who knows? That terminology de-escalation might even produce more senatorial harmony — and perhaps even some Republican votes for President Obama’s nominees.