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The Dems' Nuclear Option | The Nation

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The Dems' Nuclear Option

We've done all we can do, Democrats said after pulling an all-nighter last week, when Republicans blocked yet another vote on a proposal to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

It takes sixty votes to pass anything in the Senate these days. And Democrats had only fifty-two. After much hype, just three Republicans broke with President Bush. Until more Republicans defect, Congress is stuck in a stalemate.

But there's another option. Democrats could give Republicans a taste of their own medicine and invoke the "nuclear option." Two years ago Republicans threatened to eliminate the filibuster if Democrats didn't allow an up-or-down vote on President Bush's judicial nominees. Frightened Democrats acquiesced and allowed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, thus ensuring a conservative majority on the court for decades to come.

Is the war in Iraq equally important to Democrats? Vowing to alter the rules of the Senate would be a risky and unpredictable move. But it would prove that the party stands for more than all-night PR stunts.

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