Nuclear Option


The nuclear or constitutional option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the U.S. Senate to override a rule or precedent by a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of by a supermajority of 60 votes.

In common law legal systems, a precedent, or authority, is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts.

Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies.

The United States Senate is a legislative chamber in the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the House of Representatives makes up the U.S. Congress.

The Nuclear Option Explained by Keith Hughes


The option is invoked by the presiding officer of the United States Senate ruling that the validity of a Senate rule or precedent is a constitutional question.

A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature or parliament.

Fallout 4 - The Nuclear Option - Minutemen Ending by Frankenburger


The issue is immediately put to the full Senate, which decides by majority vote.


The procedure thus allows the Senate to decide any issue by majority vote, regardless of existing procedural rules, such as current Senate rules specifying that ending a filibuster requires the consent of 60 senators for legislation, and 67 for amending a Senate rule.

A filibuster is a parliamentary procedure where debate over a proposed piece of legislation is extended, allowing one or more members to delay or entirely prevent a vote on the proposal.


The term "nuclear option" is an analogy to nuclear weapons being the most extreme option in warfare.

Analogy is a cognitive process of transferring information or meaning from a particular subject to another, or a linguistic expression corresponding to such a process.

A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion.


In 1917, a threat to use what is now known as the nuclear option resulted in reform of the Senate's filibuster rules.


An opinion written by Vice President Richard Nixon in 1957 concluded that the U.S. Constitution grants the presiding officer the authority to override Senate rules.

Richard Milhous Nixon was an American politician who served as the 37th President of the United States from 1969 until 1974, when he became the only U.S. president to resign from office.


The option was used to make further rule changes in 1975.


In November 2013, Senate Democrats used the nuclear option to eliminate filibusters on executive branch nominations and federal judicial appointments other than those to the Supreme Court.


Before November 2013, Senate rules required a three-fifths vote of the "duly chosen and sworn" members of the Senate – to end debate on a bill, nomination or other proposal; they also require a two-thirds vote to end debate on a change to the Senate rules.


Those rules effectively allowed a minority of the Senate to block a bill or nomination through the technique of the filibuster.


This had resulted in a de facto requirement that a nomination have the support of 60 Senators to pass, rather than a majority of 51.


A three-fifths vote is still required to end debates on legislation and Supreme Court nominations.


In most proposed variations of the nuclear option, the presiding officer would rule that a simple majority vote is sufficient to end debate.


If the ruling is challenged, a majority would be required to overturn it.


If the ruling is upheld, it becomes a precedent.


This would end what had effectively become a 60-vote requirement for confirmation of an Supreme Court nominee or the passage of legislation.

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