Trump urges GOP to use "nuclear option" to reopen government, as Durbin warns against it

Trump wants Republicans to change Senate rules to help end the shutdown while the gridlock in Congress continues

Published January 21, 2018 1:45PM (EST)

 (AP/Evan Vucci)
(AP/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump suggested Republicans should enact the "nuclear option" in the Senate, if the gridlock continued, in order to reopen the government and put an end to the shutdown his administration has repeatedly blamed the Democrats for. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., however, warned that if the Republicans decided to go that route and use the so-called nuclear option it "would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised."

The "nuclear option" would consist of changing Senate rules so that it would require 51 votes, a simple majority, to break a filibuster, rather than the current requirement of 60 votes, Politico reported. It's also not even clear if the Republicans can obtain 51 votes, as four members of the party voted against the spending bill that would have kept the government running. Although, obtaining 51 votes will of course make things easier for them.

Democrats such as Durbin, the minority whip, warned against changing the rules and said it would contradict the purpose of why the Senate was established the way it was.

"Well, I can tell you that would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers," Durbin said Sunday on ABC'S "This Week."

He added, "We have to acknowledge our respect for the minority, and that is what the Senate tries to do in its composition and in its procedure."

Durbin instead suggested he still hopes to reach a bipartisan solution, but can't predict when the federal shutdown will ultimately come to an end. Durbin also explained that he was frustrated that Trump rejected legislation he put together with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and later rejected "major concessions" by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"Chuck Schumer made major concessions to the president to get this job done. Two hours later the White House called and said, "It's over, we're not interested," Durbin explained on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Durbin said that only 48 hours after the messy and televised bipartisan immigration meeting with the president, he and Graham "presented a bill to him which was summarily rejected. So what happened to Schumer happened to us. We can't reach the agreement we need for this nation without leadership from a president."

It's not clear how much support the idea has amongst Republicans, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed opposition to changing the rules.

"The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation," a representative for McConnell told CNBC on Sunday. McConnell has opposed the move in the past as well, largely out of fear that it could be used against the Republicans if Democrats ever hold a majority in the future.

As the government shutdown continues through its second day, there are still little signs of progress as Republicans and the Trump administration continue to place the responsibility on the Democrats. Durbin explained on "Meet the Press" that he wouldn't predict when the shutdown would end, but indicated that he felt things were moving in a positive direction.

"You think this government reopens before close of business Monday?" NBC's Chuck Todd asked Durbin on Sunday.

He replied, "I'm not going to make that prediction."

On Sunday afternoon, the Senate resumed discussions to potentially end the shutdown.

By Charlie May

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