What is “the nuclear option”?
The “nuclear option” is a last-resort, break-in-case-of-emergency way for the majority party in the Senate to overcome obstruction by the minority.
All it actually involves is changing the rules of the Senate so that a nominee like Gorsuch can be confirmed with a simple majority of 51 votes. Under the previous rules, 60 votes were needed to foil any attempt by the minority party to block a vote by use of the filibuster.
While senators are no longer required to give actual speeches to mount a filibuster, it has remained powerful tool that allows the minority to gum up action in the Senate until the majority can find 60 votes to break a logjam.
The change to a simple majority vote may not sound very dramatic, but in a place like the Senate, which operates on tradition and bipartisan comity, it’s a big deal befitting its apocalyptic name.