Senate Democrats Vote for Major Filibuster Rule Change

Senate Democrats bowled over Republicans on Thursday to win approval for a highly controversial rule change which would limit the GOP's ability to block nominees, in a move Republicans called a "raw power grab."

"It's a sad day in the history of the Senate," Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said after the vote.

Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., moving quickly following days of speculation, used the so-called "nuclear option" to pass the change. Typically, major changes like this take 67 votes, but he did it with just a simple majority.

With Republicans fuming, the change weakens the power of the minority to stall nominations for top positions. Instead of needing 60 votes to break a filibuster, the change means Democrats will now need just 51.

President Obama, speaking Thursday from the White House briefing room, said the change was needed to deal with Republicans' "unprecedented pattern of obstruction."

He 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.

Republicans charged that Democrats were merely trying to shift focus away from ObamaCare with the move.

"Today we face a real crisis in the confirmation process, a crisis concocted by the Democrat majority to distract attention from the ObamaCare disaster and, in the process, consolidate more power than any majority has had in more than 200 years," Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said in a statement immediately following the historic vote.

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