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Senate Goes 'Nuclear,' Changes Nominee Filibuster Rules

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Democrats officially went "nuclear" Thursday, voting to weaken the filibuster tradition for judicial and executive nominees with a simple majority vote.

The Senate voted 52 to 48 to change Senate rules to allow the president's judicial and executive nominees to be confirmed with only 51 votes. Supreme Court nominees are exempt from the change and still subject to the 60-vote threshold.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to prevent the move by calling for an adjournment of the Senate, but failed.

Majority Leader Harry Reid had warned earlier that he was prepared to make good on his threat to change the rules of the Senate to thwart Republican attempts to filibuster President Obama's nominees, declaring, "It's time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete."

"It's time to get the Senate working again," Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor. "Not for the good of the Democratic majority, but for the good of the United States of America."

He was poised to invoke the so-called nuclear option, effectively eliminating the minority party's ability to filibuster judicial and executive nominees. Republicans have in recent weeks blocked three appointments to a key federal appeals court, prompting Reid to call a vote to change long-standing Senate rules on the filibuster.

"This is not about Democrats versus Republicans," Reid said. "This is about making Washington work, regardless of who is in the White House."

While Reid said neither party's hands "are clean on this issue," he placed blame on Republicans for repeatedly opposing judicial and executive branch nominees.

"The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken," Reid said. "I believe the American people are right."

McConnell called it a "power grab" and said Democrats were trying to distract Americans from the failed rollout of the Affordable Care Act. He called the dispute a "fake fight over judges."

"Once again, Senate Democrats are threatening to break the rules of the Senate to change the rules of the Senate," McConnell said. "Over what? Over what?"

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