In our opinion: Nuclear option is no cause for celebration

Published: Friday, July 19 2013 9:44 a.m. MDT

Harry Reid

Associated Press

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The decision by Senate Democrats to back away from threats to invoke a so-called "nuclear option" may have ended a standoff over presidential appointments, but it is by no means cause for celebration. The episode is merely another incarnation of the malignant brinkmanship that permeates current politics, and it has grown far beyond tiresome.

It is a sad situation indeed when legislation is stalled until one side or another threatens to unleash "Armageddon." Sadder still is the fact that such behavior has become standard procedure. Blame who you may, but both parties have preyed upon fears of one kind of doomsday or another to get their way in debates ranging from fiscal policy to congressional voting rules. Without this, a compromise solution may have taken the place of sequestration. A workable farm bill, with some provisions for each party, may have passed. The list goes on.

Americans simply deserve a government that operates on a much higher level of political maturity.

This most recent chapter in the book of blustering came as a result of a logjam in the confirmation of presidential appointees to executive labor and consumer boards. Because Republican senators balked at the nominations, Senate President Harry Reid threatened to rewrite voting rules in a way that would have relegated the minority party to a hollow voice in the confirmation process.

The precedent such action would have set — wholly denigrating long-held Senate traditions to balance the body's discourse — is more than troubling. It would have been a sign that the nation had come to a place where respect for a deliberative process that allows the minority to voice strong opposition was being sacrificed at the altar of wanton political advantage.

That this has become the way of Washington is evident in the words of leaders on both sides of the aisle in the aftermath of the decision to take the nuclear option off the table. First, Sen. Reid made it clear he would wield the same weapon again should he find it necessary. Second, former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele suggested the GOP might just as well let the Democrats unleash a legislative holocaust because Republicans would benefit in the 2014 mid-term elections.

In other words, both sides are now operating under an ethic that places partisan advantage high above compromise, regardless of whether the lack of action is in the nation's best interest.

Both parties essentially seem to be pledging that no vital work will be done on the country's behalf until one party or the other holds sway in both houses of Congress and the White House. That may be a type of doomsday scenario of its own.

That is a picture of a time and place in which the values of representative government are held hostage by allegiance to doctrine and ideology. It's the stalemate that must be broken.

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