With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans in the Senate having changed the filibuster rules for Supreme Court nominees on Thursday, you may have heard the phrase “going nuclear” quite often. You may also be wondering what “going nuclear” entails, what a filibuster is, and how this all affects you.
To start, you only need a simple majority to pass most bills in the House of Representatives. The Senate, however, has some special rules that allow Senators to delay a final vote on a bill almost indefinitely—this is the filibuster. In order to end a filibuster and hold a final vote, 60 Senators are needed to end the debate. Under the Obama Presidency, Democrats changed part of the filibuster rules to allow a simple majority of Senators (51) to end filibusters for executive appointments and federal judges (not including the Supreme Court). Now Republicans have changed the rules further which allows the same simple majority to end the filibuster of Supreme Court nominees.
This affects us all greatly because the Supreme Court has the power to change the legal landscape of the United States. I’m sure you’ve heard of at least one of these landmark Supreme Court rulings: Brown v. Board of Education (ended segregation of public schools), Loving v. Virginia (struck down laws that made interracial marriage illegal), Obergefell v. Hodges (made same-sex marriages legal across the country).
There are many issues that the Supreme Court will decide over the coming years and it’s important to note that Supreme Court Justices serve for life. So they’re there after the President who appointed them has left office and can be there for decades. This means even if Trump is impeached, he will have left a lasting mark on the United States and our Judiciary Branch.
Marquise Lawrence graduated in 2016 from the University of Central Florida with his Bachelors in Political Science.