Senator Democratic leader Harry Reid gave no signs of backing off the filibuster threat. For the first time, he also laid out plans for a post nuclear-option Senate. "I have always said we wanted to make sure that the Senate went forward, but we're going to do it on our own agenda," he said.
In recent days, Democrats have been quietly putting their own bills on the Senate calendar. Using an obscure Senate procedure called Rule XIV, they plan to move these bills onto the agenda if Republicans "pull the trigger" on the nuclear option. By tradition, it's the Senate majority leader who sets the Senate agenda.
"By invoking the nuclear option, they will have shattered the comity in the Senate, so Democrats won't be bound by the usual way of doing business," says Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Democrats.
These bills include legislation to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions by increasing funding for family planning, giving more help to disabled veterans, renewing pay-as-you-go provisions to curb federal deficits, guaranteeing overtime pay for workers, and raising the minimum wage.
So what is Rule XIV? Basically, it is a way around unanimous consent and the Senate Majority Leader setting the agenda. According to a standard reference, a bill technically can be introduced by anyone... the penalty for lacking unanimous consent is that the bill, "shall be placed on the Calendar under the heading of 'Resolutions and Motions over, under the Rule,' to be laid before the Senate on the next legislative day... before the termination of the morning hour."
This gives me hope that, if the nuclear option should be employed, the Democrats can avoid the charge of obstructionism--perhaps even make the Republicans look bad by forcing them to fight one Democratic initiative after another. Good news for the good guys: the Democrats can use tactical nukes in response to the "nuclear option."