Obama applauds Reid for filibuster overhaul, critics warn move will ‘damage’ Senate

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President Obama, openly expressing his frustration with Senate Republicans, applauded Majority Leader Harry Reid’s success Thursday at invoking the so-called “nuclear option” as Democrats voted to strip the minority party of its primary power to block nominations — the filibuster.

Obama, even invoking former President Bush, said it’s critical to “change the way that Washington is doing business.”

But Republicans and even some Democrats warned that the Senate may have just opened a Pandora’s box — and with little debate, approved a change that could haunt the chamber for years to come.

“This was nothing more than a power grab,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

In a rapid-fire set of developments on Thursday, the Senate narrowly approved a rule change that would limit the ability of the minority party to block key presidential appointments. Instead of needing 60 votes to break a filibuster, Democrats will now need only 51.

Speaking Thursday from the White House briefing room, Obama said the change was needed to deal with Republicans’ “unprecedented pattern of obstruction.” He cited the record of George W. Bush, claiming his predecessor had an easier time getting nominees confirmed.

Obama cited, among other stand-offs, the bid by Republicans to filibuster his nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former GOP senator, for Defense secretary.

“For the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal,” he said.

But following the vote, even some Democrats emerged as tough critics of the decision.

While Republicans were furious that their ability to hold up appointments had been scrambled, moderate Democrats were concerned more about how Reid was able to pull off the maneuver.

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., one of three Democrats who opposed the move, said it could “permanently damage” the Senate. “This institution was designed to protect — not stamp out — the voices of the minority,” he said.

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