The Wall Street Journal:
A divided Senate voted to ease the confirmation process for most presidential nominees, a step that limits the ability of Republicans to block Obama’s choices for executive-branch and most judicial posts. Here, we explain the so-called nuclear option. (Updated at 1 p.m.)
What is the nuclear option?
The “nuclear option” refers to a move by the majority party in Senate — in this case the Democrats — to change the Senate rules to allow most executive branch and judicial nominations to be approved with a simple majority – 51 votes — rather than the 60 votes now required. Under longstanding rules, the minority party has been able to block a nomination with just 41 votes, commonly called a filibuster.
Why is it called that?