Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Killing Filibuster Is Worth Approving Yucca Mountain


By Norris McDonald

The filisbuster has been abused for many years now.  Even routine legislation needs 60 votes to pass now instead of a simple majority of 51 votes.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to use the so-called 'nuclear option' to 'blow up' filibustering. Reid is under pressure to use the parliamentary maneuver known as the "nuclear option" to end filibusters on judicial and administration nominees, though some in his conference worry the rules change would be used to hurt Democrats if they are in the minority again.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) recently said he’s sure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is bluffing about ending the filibuster.  Alexander said that’s because doing so would let Republicans play their trump card against Reid: Yucca Mountain.

I think it would be worth it.  The Senate would work in a reasonable fashion again and we would finally get the best place to permanently store our nuclear waste.  A win-win in my opinion.  But I am not the Senate Majority Leader with the repository in my back yard. Obviously, I support Yucca Mountain as the permanent repository for storing the nation's nuclear waste.

Norris McDonald at Yucca Mountain in 2005

Reid opposes completing the nuclear waste site the government began building at Yucca Mountain. And Republicans would be able to use a simple majority vote to push ahead with the project once they held the Senate majority if Reid waters down the minority's ability to filibuster while Democrats are in charge, Alexander suggested.

Reid, like most Nevada lawmakers, has a long history of resisting the Yucca project. He put it into action in 2009 by backing President Obama's decision to pull the plug on federal reviews for using the site as the nation’s repository for spent nuclear fuel.

Yucca Mountain

Republicans have said the move was illegal, noting that a 1982 federal law names Yucca as the nation’s sole nuclear waste dump. They say depositing the spent fuel elsewhere would violate that law.

Alexander is one of four senators working on a bipartisan bill that would permit storing waste in places other than Yucca, though Senate Republicans have not fully embraced that idea.  House Republicans, on the other hand, have insisted on using the Yucca site. They have given little impression they intend to budge. That would prove a major hitch for the Senate effort, but it’s unlikely that Reid would let that get to the floor. (The Hill, 6/18/2013)

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