nuclear option

noun
|Updated on: 1 Aug 2018

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

Recent Examples of nuclear option from the Web

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

See Words from the same year
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