nuclear option


Definition of nuclear option

1 : the option of using nuclear weapons in war … it is now unimaginable that we would use anything approaching the full measure of our military power (the nuclear option aside) in the wars we fight.— Shelby Steele
2 : an extreme option regarded as a drastic step or last resort The EU has most leverage over countries that are desperate to join. Once in the club, with full voting rights, countries can answer back, leaving their peers with only the nuclear option of trying to expel them.The Economist specifically, US politics : a parliamentary procedure in the U.S. Senate by which the requirement of the affirmative votes of a supermajority of senators is changed to require only a simple majority to invoke cloture in order to stop a filibuster and allow a vote on a matter (such as a judicial nomination) to proceed Since Republicans can't muster the 60 votes necessary to overcome this particular filibuster, they now want to use their authority over Senate procedures to abolish the maneuver itself, at least for judicial nominees. Exercising this "nuclear option," as it is known, would theoretically require the support of just a simple majority of senators, which Republican leaders say they are on the verge of solidifying. — Jonathan Cohn

Examples of nuclear option in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Disconnecting an entire country from SWIFT is considered the nuclear option of economic sanctions. Charles Riley, CNN, 28 Feb. 2022 Democrats must either overcome a 60-vote threshold in the full Senate, requiring 10 GOP votes to bring the nomination to the floor, or change the Senate rules on a party-line vote, known as the nuclear option. Manu Raju, Ted Barrett And Alex Rogers, CNN, 15 Feb. 2022 Last week, Western nations launched the 'nuclear option' against Moscow in retaliation for Russia's unprovoked assault on its neighbor Ukraine. Yvonne Lau, Fortune, 4 Mar. 2022 And the nuclear option—lawsuits—are employed to take down cheating rings when they're discovered. Bryan Menegus, Wired, 30 Jan. 2022 Ever since 1787, Article I, Section 4 has been in there, the original nuclear option, to protect the national government from institutional collapse. Thomas Geoghegan, The New Republic, 13 Jan. 2022 After Harry Reid used the nuclear option to confirm appellate judges, Mr. McConnell did the same for Supreme Court nominees. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 23 Dec. 2021 The incident has quietly loomed over Kendall’s campaign against the company as a possible nuclear option for Logan. Kevin Sullivan, Robb Report, 6 Dec. 2021 Withholding labor is a nuclear option that looms over nearly every labor dispute -- except those with public safety unions. Peter Nickeas And Priya Krishnakumar, CNN, 21 Oct. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nuclear option.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of nuclear option

1962, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of nuclear option was in 1962

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Statistics for nuclear option

Last Updated

19 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Nuclear option.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 May. 2022.

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