All-Star Panel: Harry Reid and the 'nuclear option'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 28, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


SEN. HARRY REID, D – NV, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It's part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate. It was well-known in colonial legislatures before we became a country. And it's an integral part of our part of our country's 214 year history.

VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D – N.Y.: The checks and balances that Americans prize are at stake. I will do everything I can to prevent the nuclear option from being invoked, not for sake of myself or my party, but for the sake of this great republic and its traditions.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster, if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, some top Democrats talking about the nuclear option, ending the filibuster. That would allow the majority to end filibusters, defeat amendments by a simple majority vote, not the 60 votes needed in the Senate right now, the three-fifths threshold under Senate rules for major legislation for more than 30 years. As you saw there, that was their take back then. But now, Senate majority leader Harry Reid is moving forward with a number of Democrats to make adjustments. Here is where he says they are.


REID: These minor changes, I am suggesting, wouldn't affect anyone that had the thought of making America better, if I were in the minority. To stop a filibuster on a motion to proceed to a bill, take 10 days to just get on a bill, I don't think that is good. And we need to change that.


BAIER: OK. We're back with the panel. Kirsten?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK POST: Well, I guess I'm supposed to address the hypocrisy, which is shocking.

BAIER: Address what you want to address.


POWERS:  -- in Washington.

BAIER: What about the effort?

POWERS: What about the effort?

BAIER: Yeah.

REID: I think that -- I don't think that he is going to try to ram anything through. I think he is going to try to get something in the middle, middle ground where you do stop the filibuster for just debating a bill, just simple things.

I personally think that -- and I think this is what Harry Reid thinks, if you are going to filibuster you should have to filibuster. You should have to go on the floor, you should have to stand in front of the country, you have to filibuster. What they do right now, they do it in the dark of night. They just can stop even a bill from moving forward and no one ever even knows that it happened.

I think you also have to remember that when those Democrats were jsut saying those things, the reason they were saying it is because the Republicans were trying to do exactly what Harry Reid is trying to do right now. So there is hypocrisy on both sides. The minority is always making the same complaint regardless of the party. But in terms of what is good for country, I think they need to do filibuster reform. You should have to stand on the floor and filibuster.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I love these debates, because of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, this issue is the one that brings out the purist hypocrisy, it's like a laboratory sample of it. And you hear the same arguments but different teams argue it depending on who is the majority.

BAIER: And emotionally.

KRAUTHAMMER: Oh emotionally -- and with great grandiloquence and how much of the Republic hangs on this, and then six years later, you're seeing the exact opposite with the same fervor and passion. So it's obviously a joke. It depends who is in power. In 2005, I think, is when those clips were, the Republicans were in charge.  Democrats were stopping the appointment of the judges, including Miguel Estrada, who was a promising rising Hispanic who probably would have ended up on the Supreme Court. And in the end, the Republicans threatened and got a kind of a compromise.

Look, I could live with it or without it. But I mean, I do think it is just highly amusing and entertaining that you get all the thundering arguments on either side. I think we ought to have the Simpson-Bowles, get them in a room and decide how we are going to do this for like 50 years depending on who it's going to be. And it can be a yes or a no. I think the republic will survive either way.

BAIER: Steve, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was just an interesting take that this was the first move by Democrats in the new Congress. When you are trying to get things done and moved forward and deal with the 'fiscal cliff' that the first announcement comes out that you are going to end the filibuster or try to and take away minority rights.  And then, by the way, let's negotiate at the negotiating table.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yeah, I will say I found that odd. And I don't have an explanation as to why Harry Reid would be doing this, particularly at a time when you've got the president seeming to want to send, despite the fact that he's harping on these tax rates, he is wanting to send a broader message. Look, I want to talk to Republicans in some ways the opposite of the way he campaigned and governed in his last two years of his first term where he had these we-can't-wait initiatives and he deliberately sought to circumvent the Congress.

The president is at least making on a very, I think, superficial level a public relations case that he wants to actually work with Republicans. So you've got Harry Reid on the other hand saying absolutely not. We are going to -- we can't possibly run the Senate without making these changes. The republic is at stake.

BAIER: But Kirsten, you truly believe that this is what they want to pursue and that this is not part of the whole let's force them into dealing better in the negotiations somehow with the threat of --

POWERS: It could be both. I think, I mean, the majority is going to want to do this, regardless of what the majority is. The minority is going to fight this no matter what. The Democrats maintain that Republicans have abused the filibuster, as the majority always does. So I think they would be doing it anyway. But if it's, you know, gives them extra leverage, then that's probably a bonus.

KRAUTHAMMER: I link this with the president's approach today where he essentially said to the Republicans on taxes -- you give me everything, I give you nothing, we go over a cliff otherwise. I think this is an assault by Democrats on Republicans who -- and Democrats have an idea that having just won, what they imagine is a landslide they're going to push this on all the fronts in the Congress and on taxation. I think it's a big mistake.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned for last minute fiscal cliff prep.

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