Senate Democrats laid the groundwork Thursday to trigger the “nuclear option” against minority filibusters, setting up a dramatic Tuesday showdown in which Republicans either will have to accept seven of President Obama’s controversial appointments or watch as Democrats change the rules and end filibusters of executive branch nominees.
The move would fundamentally alter the balance of power between the White House and the Senate and would give the president more latitude to put his team into place. But it also would aggravate a contentious atmosphere in the Senate and dim prospects for bipartisan agreements this year, with spending, debt and immigration fights still simmering.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said at the beginning of the year that he would not use the option.
He changed his mind Thursday after Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, broke his side of an agreement by delaying confirmation of some of the president’s nominees.
“A deal is a deal, a contract is a contract, an arrangement is an arrangement, a bargain is a bargain, as long as each party to such an agreement holds up his end of the bargain,” Mr. Reid said in a morning floor speech.
Republicans warned that they could retaliate easily if they reclaim the majority by ending other filibusters, which would let them push through their own priorities without fear of minority obstruction.