This afternoon, Senate majority leader Harry Reid deployed the so-called "nuclear option," changing the Senate rules to get rid of the 60-vote requirement to end a filibuster on judicial nominees or executive-branch nominees. The Washington Free Beacon reports that in 2008, Reid denounced Republican consideration of the "nuclear option" and vowed that he would never use it:
“As long as I am the Leader, the answer’s no,” he said. “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.
As recently as July of this year, when Reid threatened to change the rules on presidential nominees, Reid said on Meet the Press the difference between what Republicans considered doing in 2005 and now is that Democrats are "not touching judges. That's what they were talking about. This is not judges.”
Reid changed the rules today so President Obama can pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the second most important court in the country, with liberal judges. (Seventy-one percent of Obama's circuit court nominees were confirmed during his first term. Sixty-seven percent of George W. Bush's circuit nominees were confirmed during his first term.)
The rules still allow senators to filibuster Supreme Court nominees with 41 votes, but given the precedent established today it's inconceivable that either party would let a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee stand, which could make it much easier for Republicans to confirm constitutionalist judges in the future.