They broke their commitment on not setting off the 'nuclear option' on filibuster.
After the election of George W. Bush, Democrats in the Senate decided to change the way presidential nominees had been considered for more than two centuries. They embarked on an unprecedented, years-long filibustering frenzy — going so far as to filibuster one judicial nominee seven times, while blocking many other qualified nominees, too.
The Republican majority considered deploying the "nuclear option" at the time to end Democrats' filibustering, but ultimately (and wisely, in my opinion) declined to do so. Then-Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., made this plea: "I pray God when the Democrats take back control, we don't make the (same) kind of naked power grab."
Well, Thursday they did.
OUR VIEW: Republicans provoked this
And why? Because they were intent on doing so all along.
They say it's because Republicans have been unfair to the president's nominees. The truth is, we confirmed 215 of President Obama's judicial nominees and rejected only two before this battle began. And when it comes to the court they picked this particular fight over, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, we just confirmed a nominee to that bench by a vote of 97-0.
The D.C. Circuit Court is now evenly divided between Democrat and Republican appointees. It has more judges than it even needs with its light workload — using the same standard that Democrats themselves used to deny President Bush's picks to the court.
But the D.C. Circuit often decides the legality of a president's executive actions, and Democrats do not want that check on their power. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., basically admitted as much, saying, "We will fill up the D.C. Circuit, one way or another."
That's the real reason they went nuclear Thursday. They want to pack the court with ideological nominees. And don't count on them to stop with just that court.
I wish Democrats hadn't done this. They threatened to do so several times recently, and each time Republicans compromised with the commitment from Democrats that they would not go nuclear.
This "naked power grab," as Biden put it, is dangerous for our democracy. Rather than learn from past precedents, Democrats have set yet another one; they will one day regret this one, too, when the Senate majority inevitably changes — as it always does.
Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is the Senate's Republican leader.