Rush Limbaugh ranted that Senate Democrats took a step towards “total statist authoritarianism” by passing the nuclear option in filibuster reform - an option Limbaugh believed was the “Constitutional Option” in 2004, when Republicans ruled the Senate.
On November 21, after years of unprecedented Republican obstruction, the Senate voted to eliminate the ability of the minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees, a measure often called the “nuclear option.” The New York Times explained, “Under the change, the Senate will be able to cut off debate on executive and judicial branch nominees with a simple majority rather than rounding up a supermajority of 60 votes.”
Rush Limbaugh raged over the filibuster reform, accusing Democrats of seeking “total statist authoritarianism.” He complained that, with this vote, “250 years of rules, Senate rules, out the window, as the Democrats have made it plain they're not interested in democracy. And that really is what this means. Not interested in democracy at all,” going on to say that now, President Obama gets to “play dictator with judicial nominees.”
The next day, Limbaugh even compared filibuster reform to a vote that would “allow women to be raped.”
But Limbaugh's outrage is highly selective -- when Republicans controlled the Senate, he believed that requiring more than a majority vote for presidential appointees was "unconstitutional" and enthusiastically supported similar filibuster reform.
In December of 2004, while discussing the Democratic minority's filibusters of Bush's lower court judicial nominees, Rush Limbaugh even called the nuclear option the “Constitutional option,” and encouraged Republicans to take it (emphasis added):
LIMBAUGH: This filibuster, as you know, they're filibustering these nominations which requires essentially 60 votes for a judge to be confirmed. The Constitution says nothing about this. The Constitution says simple majority, 51 votes. But because they're invoking the filibuster, which, you know, the Senate can make up its own rules but not when they impose on the Constitution and not when they impose on the legislative branch. Separation of powers here. But if nobody stops them, they're going to keep getting away with it. It's up to the Senate Republicans to stop them.
Now, this is Point 2. There's a so-called “nuclear” option, which I don't like that term. Call it the Constitutional Option. It would end the use of the filibuster for judicial nominations. The Democrats are warning that if the Republicans change the filibuster rule on them, then all hell will break loose. I can't think of anything worse than what they've done and will continue to do, which is prevent the president from appointing judges in federal court, so let them break out their new version of hell. What more can they do on this? And let them try it. They don't have the political standing in the country to do this. They don't have the love and devotion of a majority of the American people, so if they're going to claim all hell will break lose, let's see what their hell is. But don't call this the nuclear option. Call it the constitutional option.
If the Senate, which has the constitutional right to make its own rules, decides that it wants to require a super-majority vote to pass certain bills such as tax bills -- and they can do that. They can write those rules all day long -- such a rule would not infringe on presidential power. But to do so when it affects a presidential power, which takes us into a separation of powers issue, like the appointment of judges, that is unconstitutional, in my layman's view.
Rush is only one of several conservatives who are decrying this week's Senate vote, yet loved the nuclear option when Republicans threatened to use it.