Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that he was not being hypocritical by pushing for a change in Senate filibuster rules that he strongly decried eight years ago, declaring, "It's a new era."
"It's a totally different world we live in," Reid said, accusing Republicans of being so entrenched in their obstruction to some of President Obama's top nominees that the Senate and other parts of the government have become paralyzed.
In a speech to the Center for American Progress, a liberal research organization in Washington, Reid said he was following the sentiment of fellow Democratic senators. The Nevada senator said the only thing to prevent invoking the so-called nuclear option by changing Senate rules to allow a simple majority to approve executive branch nominations would be Republicans' agreeing to vote on the president's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and other top nominations that have been languishing.
"My efforts are directed to save the Senate from becoming obsolete," Reid said, dismissing suggestions that the fight was simply between him and his Republican counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
"This is not McConnell vs. Reid," he said.
The Senate will meet at 6 p.m. in the Old Senate Chamber, a rare bipartisan meeting, before moving forward to rule changes as early as Tuesday. In his remarks to a small audience and in a question-and-answer session after his speech, Reid made clear that he had moved beyond making threats about the rule change that some senators believe could signal the end of the filibuster.
He said he had simply run out of options.
"You can't reward bad behavior over and over and over again," Reid said.