The claim: Former Sen. Harry Reid orchestrated the 'nuclear option' to lower the vote threshold for Supreme Court confirmations to 51
As Democrats lament the possible confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, some Republicans tried to tell them that they have no one to blame but themselves.
Alongside a photo of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and current Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a user took to Facebook to "remind" Americans what Reid did in 2013.
"You see prior to 2013 it took 60 votes in the Senate to confirm a Supreme Court nominee, now it takes a simple majority of 51. Know why? Because Harry Reid and his fellow Democratic senators voted to change the rule to 51, it was called the 'nuclear option' and they pushed that button," the post read.
The post also noted that at the time, then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., — now the majority leader — spoke out against the change.
"So all you Democrats, if it wasn't for your party changing the rule in 2013 you would now have the votes to stop Trump from replacing Ginsburg," the post continued. "If you want to blame somebody for screwing you out of the chance to stop Trump from filling this seat, you can put the blame right where it belongs, your own party and the people you elected to run it."
The user behind the post did not respond to a request from USA TODAY for comment.
In 2013, Reid and Democrats lowered vote threshold on most nominees, but not for Supreme Court picks
In 2013, Democrats held a majority in the Senate while President Barack Obama occupied the White House.
For four decades, a 60-vote supermajority had been required to advance all federal judicial nominees and executive-office appointments, per The Washington Post.
Then, Senate Republicans attempted to filibuster multiple Obama nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, his pick for Defense secretary, and his choices to lead the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
In response, Reid orchestrated a move to lower the Senate vote threshold to 51 to confirm most presidential appointments — but not nominees to the Supreme Court.
Those nominees, and legislation, could still be filibustered.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 52-48 in favor of the change, which was dubbed the "nuclear option."
At the time, McConnell condemned the move.
“It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate,” he told reporters, calling it a “power grab" by Democrats.
In 2017, McConnell and Republicans lowered the threshold for nominees to the Supreme Court, too
By 2017, roles had reversed — Republicans held the majority in the Senate, and President Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office.
After Senate Democrats, now in the minority, filibustered the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch — Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court — McConnell engineered his own "nuclear option."
The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-48 to reduce the vote threshold for confirming nominees to the Supreme Court from 60 to 51, per The New York Times.
(The need for a 60-vote supermajority still exists for legislation.)
Again, both sides played the blame game.
“This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet,” McConnell said, of Democratic efforts to filibuster the Gorsuch high court nomination.
Schumer, meanwhile, said that when "history weighs what happened," the responsibility will rest on McConnell and Republicans.
“They have had other choices,” he said. “They have chosen this one.”
Our rating: False
We rate this claim FALSE, based on research. Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was not responsible for lowering the vote threshold to confirm Supreme Court nominees to 51. Rather, he orchestrated that change for judicial nominees and presidential appointments, excluding the Supreme Court. When control of the Senate changed parties, it was Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who extended the rule change to apply to nominees to the Supreme Court in 2017.
Our fact-check sources:
The Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2013, Reid, Democrats trigger ‘nuclear’ option; eliminate most filibusters on nominees
The New York Times, April 6, 2017, Senate Republicans Deploy ‘Nuclear Option’ to Clear Path for Gorsuch
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: GOP ended Senate filibuster on Supreme Court nominees