All In | July 16, 2013
>>> as we have been talking about tonight, this has been a big day for congressional democrats, and really, for anyone who actually wants to see the senate status quo killed. senate majority leader harry reid exerted his will on republicans to finally stop the filibustering of president obama 's nominees. i spoke with majority leader about the big win and how he had to threaten to go nuclear to make it happen. senator reid, my takeaway from today's deal seems to be this. i'd like you to tell me if i'm right or wrong. the only way to get republicans to abide by the norms of the institution of the senate is to credibly threaten to destroy them.
>> well, i would hope that we have been able to establish that we need to have a new norm around here. what's been going on for the last period of time has just not worked well at all. filibustering secretary of defense, the i.a. director. the people i had on the cabinet, now it's nine months average wait for them. so i don't think we need to go back and more recriminations. we had a joint caucus last night. it was very, very good.
>> but with all due rp respect, senator, the only way this came about was a real credible threat you were going to do this thing that would have been fairly measure. a 51 vote to change the rules. what sense do you have that this new norm will preserve without that being wielded that things won't go back to the way they were before?
>> last night at the joint caucus i reminded everyone we had a vote at 10:00 in the morning and that i had the votes. and there was never any doubt about that. i was very fortunately, the caucus was with me. i think that's what was important. i think we were able to get this done, and i think it would never have happened had we not gone through the process we did.
>> my understanding is as part of this deal that was announced today, there is no agreement on your part to take the possibility of a further use of the nuclear option in some further future foreseeable circumstances off the table. so does that remain a possibility if we see the republican minority go back to their ways of old?
>> i was asked if i could do that, and i said no. i could not. i have to have the ability to protect not only the senate , but the country. and, listen, they want to filibuster, let them filibuster, and we'll override those filibusters, and if they get too out of hand, we'll have to revisit all these things again. i don't think that will be necessary. i really feel very comfortable where we are. i think there's -- you know, we have to move past this. we've got student loans to do. we have to finish immigration. i've talked to senator mikulski. we had a long visit about appropriations bill . we have an energy bill that jeanne shaheen and portman want to do together. i feel it's really a new day, and hopefully, and i feel comfortable, it's going to be a new norm here in the united states senate .
>> i want to play this clip of you speaking in 2008 about the nuclear option which has been making the rounds. i'm sure you've seen this, republicans pointing to this and other quotes. take a listen to this for just a moment.
>> as long as i'm the leader, the answer is no. i don't -- i think it -- i think we should just forget that. that is a black chapter in the history of the senate . i hope we never, ever get to that again because i really do believe it will ruin our country.
>> that was you talking about the invoation of the nuclear option , about the 2005 invocation of the nuclear option by bill frist . you says, look, i think this is a terrible idea. people watched what happened with you and mitch mcconnell . people conclude the role reversal on procedure is mere hypocrisy, that it just matters what side of the majority/minority line you're on. is that the case?
>> of course, understand that was a different time, a different issue. that dealt with lifetime appointments. that isn't what we're talking about here. that's why everyone knew i had the votes in my hip pocket. we were talking about the fact that a president should have the ability, put his team together, and that's what it was all about. so you people can go back and look at my book and talk about what i said those many years ago. the fact is, things have broken down very much since then. and president obama has not been able to put his people on the table. look, i'm kind of an expert at this. lyndon johnson was the leader of the same period of time that i have been. he had to overcome one filibuster. i've had to overcome 413 filibusters.
>> so if that's the case, majority leader, then why should the filibuster exist at all? there are a lot of people hoping today that actually you'd press that button on the 51-senator vote precisely because we view the filibuster, itself, fundamentally as an obstacle to progress. what is the argument to have it at all?
>> the senate is a body that has been for, title was established to protect minority rights . we have to make sure we do that. if there are abuses, we have tools to do that. i understand those tools as well as anyone. that's why we are where we are today. we are today, we've given up none of our rights. we have all the nominees that we requested. i mean, sometimes you have to take yes for an answer. we had seven filibusters. we worked things out. they stopped those. so when somebody tells you yes, it doesn't make much sense to say, yes, but, no.
>> there's no question that you got essentially all of what you wanted going into today. i think a lot of people are very happy to see the results. the only two people that probably aren't happy are sharon block and richard griffin , the two nlrb nominees. am i wrong in thinking they got a raw deal here? they ended up getting rescinded. no one alleged that these individuals were anything but qualified for the board they were nominated to sit on.
>> i thank think they are going to be just fine. we may spr oahave other arrangements for them down the road. cinch up your seat belt . don't worry about griffin. block has 15 months to go in her term. i think there will be a future for her in government some time in the near future .
>> are you generally concerned about the uncertainty cast over recess appointments by the federal court for appeals in the district of columbia? does that now hamper the president's ability to fill vacancieies when there is still, even after today, this breakthrough, a huge backlog of positions that need to be filled?
>> the president was forced to do what he did. from the time we've been a country, the president when he stymied doing something with deployments, he has a recess appointment . that is in our institution. the decision reached by the d.c. court of appealed was foisted upon the american people because we had some bad judges. we have not been able to fill a spot there since roberts except for the latest guy we the put on there. we've been waiting years and years. we have three more coming up. we're going to fight to get them. i have confidence, as much as i disagree with the decisions of the supreme court most of the time, i feel that the facts and law are on our side, i think except they will say the president has his institutional ability to do recess appointments .
>> finally very quickly here, is mitch mcconnell the problem? or is it the caucus of the senators? if you could wave a magic wand and change the makeup of the republican senators, or change mitch mcconnell to get things done, which would you do?
>> this is not between harry reid and mitch mcconnell . this is about having the function of the senate be what it should be. i -- this is not about us. it's not about democrats and republicans. about having a body that the constitution set up that was supposed to work really well and it has been working well. especially with what is going on in the house, we need to have an effective united states senate , and i think in the foreseeable future, we're going to have one.
>> we'll be checking back on those words. ho hopefully in the future. senate majority leader harry reid . great pleasure to have you this evening.
>> my pleasure.