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Senate Republicans invoked a procedure known as the “nuclear option” on Wednesday to cut debate time on nominees for federal district courts and many executive branch nominees.
As a result of the move, debate time after a cloture vote will be reduced from 30 to two hours, report BuzzFeed News, Courthouse News Service, NPR and the Wall Street Journal. A cloture vote is held when the minority party refuses to hold a final vote on a nominee.
The rule change does not apply to nominees to federal appeals courts, the U.S. Supreme Court and Cabinet positions.
Republicans turned to the nuclear option after they were unable to get 60 votes to move forward with a proposal to formally change the rules governing debate time, Courthouse News Service reports.
The nuclear option involves calling and advancing a nomination, raising a point of order to cut debate time and then appealing when the point of order is voted down. At that point, only a majority vote is required.
Fifty-one Republicans approved the rule change. Voting against it were GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Mike Lee of Utah.
Lee told the Wall Street Journal he voted no because he feared the rule change could be “accelerating our march” toward eliminating filibusters on legislation.
“One reason they call this the nuclear option is once it’s set in motion, it can be difficult to control,” Lee told the newspaper.