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The Brief: Nov. 22, 2013

Senate Democrats have launched the nuclear option. Now what?

Sen. John Cornyn at his reelection campaign kickoff in Austin, Texas on November 15th, 2013

The Big Conversation

Senate Democrats have launched the nuclear option. Now what?

In the aftermath of the vote to stop filibusters of most presidential nominees, politicians and analysts were busy trying to figure out the long-term effects.

The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman wrote that although the vote to secure votes on President Obama's nominees "was no doubt cathartic," the maneuver ultimately "could usher in an era of rank partisan warfare beyond even what Americans have seen in the past five years."

Based on the reaction of Texas' senators, Weisman's prediction could prove telling. Sen. John Cornyn denounced the vote “as a raw exercise of partisan political power.” Both he and Sen. Ted Cruz linked the vote with Obamacare, the flawed implementation of which has caused the president's approval numbers to drop.

“The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing ObamaCare,” said Cruz.

Talk of curtailing the filibuster option to stop presidential nominees has been around for years, of course, with various groups of centrist senators rallying seemingly at the last possible minute to prevent the deployment of the so-called nuclear option many times.

So with the decision of Majority Leader Harry Reid to go through with the long-threatened vote to change the rules, the other tactic Thursday in coverage was to show how leaders of each party have changed their views on the nuclear option along with their status as member of the majority or minority party.

There is Reid himself. As Politico's Manu Raju noted, Reid "once called the 'nuclear option' an 'un-American' move that would destroy the Senate and 'ruin our country.'" His comments on Thursday, though, showed a remarkable evolution in his thinking.

“The Senate is a living thing, and to survive it must change as it has over the history of this great country," Reid said, as reported by the Times' Jeremy W. Peters. "To the average American, adapting the rules to make the Senate work again is just common sense.”

Cornyn has shown a similar facility for change. The Dallas Morning News' Todd J. Gillman reported this 2005 quote from Cornyn: “No partisan minority of the Senate has a right to block a bipartisan majority from casting a vote to confirm this president or any president’s nominees.”

Culled

•    Cruz: Dems want to pack court with judges to protect O-Care (The Hill): "Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the Senate’s leading critic of the Affordable Care Act, denounced a vote Thursday to prohibit filibusters against appellate court nominees as a scheme to save the health law. 'The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing ObamaCare,' he said."

•    SBOE Retreats From Algebra II in High School Grad Plans (The Texas Tribune): "Only high school students who pursue an honors plan or a diploma specializing in math and science will have to take algebra II under recommendations that the Texas State Board of Education preliminarily approved Thursday. Despite an initial proposal that had included the advanced math course in all five new diploma plans, the 15-member board was nearly unanimous in its decision Thursday."

•    In Texas, Prosecutors Add Twitter Insult to Capital Punishment (The Atlantic): "No, what is particularly galling here is that just a few hours after the court issued its ruling against Buck, just a few hours after the state again stamped its approval for this patently unconstitutional result, Texas prosecutors got into a silly Twitter spat with his lawyers, accusing them of unprofessional conduct"

•    Graphic anti-abortion mailer targets docs with admitting privileges (San Antonio Express-News): "A North Texas anti-abortion group claims to have sent doctors around the state a graphic postcard — depicting what appears to be an aborted fetus — in an attempt to sway physicians with admitting privileges away from working with clinics lacking those credentials. Life Dynamics, a Denton-based group, said this week that it mailed a postcard to 'every doctors office in the state,' that reads in part: 'HIRED KILLERS … they are out to recruit you.'”

•    Campbell, Novak, Chan running in Texas Senate District 25 (San Antonio Express-News): "After her Thursday morning shift at a North Side emergency care center, state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, announced she's seeking re-election in District 25. ... Campbell fired an opening salvo toward her two foes, pointing to her right side and saying 'anybody who wants to run against, me, there's not much room on the right over here to run.'”

Quote to Note: “It's flattering, but it makes me wonder who I was competing against.” — San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro on his being named to Salon's list of sexiest men of 2013

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