Alexander to Reid: Mess With the Filibuster at Your Own Peril

Niraj Chokshi

It's the procedural version of mutually assured destruction. Democrats are sick of Republicans threatening to use the filibuster to slow down progress; Republicans are sick of Democrats suggesting they might change Senate rules to get their way. The tacit counterthreat from the GOP is now explicit: if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid deploys the so-called "nuclear option"—eliminating the ability of the minority party to impose a 60-vote threshold through atypical Senate procedure—he can expect retaliation.

Fittingly, Senate Republicans are fighting the nuclear option with nuclear waste. Should Reid make the change, Republicans may well vote to turn Nevada's Yucca mountain into a nuclear-waste dumping site, much to the consternation of the citizens in Reid's home state.

"Make no mistake, a vote to end the filibuster is a vote to complete Yucca mountain," Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., warned Reid in a Tuesday morning floor speech. "If the Democrats can turn the Senate into a place where a majority of 51 can do anything they want, soon a majority of 51 Republicans are going to figure out the same thing to do," he said earlier in that same speech.

Meanwhile, the Republican junior senator from Nevada also recently warned that Reid's actions could affect Yucca's fate, according to The Washington Examiner's David Drucker:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., spent considerable floor time speaking out against potential changes to Senate rules that would rob the minority of influence. And Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., warned in an interview that limiting the power of the minority could eventually lead to Nevada's Yucca Mountain being reopened as a nuclear-waste dump, a personal consideration for Reid. If the minority didn't force the Senate to round up 60 votes instead of a bare majority, Nevada would become the nation's nuclear dumping ground, he said.

If Reid goes through with the rule change he's threatened—and promised to only use for White House nominees—he could soon have a bigger, more personal problem on his hands.