When Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid went "nuclear" last winter, he just might have saved a major part of Obamacare from a serious challenge it now faces.
Reid's power play over Republican opposition in December led to the seating of three Democratic judges on the federal appeals court circuit that serves the District of Columbia.
The Obama administration is now banking on a Democratic majority created by those judges to help overturn a stunning ruling that threatens a key leg of the Affordable Care Act.
Reid opted for the so-called "nuclear option" to help win confirmation of the three court nominees. The option was a series of rules changes that allowed confirmation with a simple majority instead of the required 60 senators. The Nevada senator's action removed the ability of senators to filibuster a non-Supreme Court judicial nominee.
Reid went to that length after Republicans resisted the Obama administration's move to fill the three vacant seats, with some GOP members arguing the court's workload was so light it didn't need the three judges.
Those new judges—Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Nina Pillard—tipped the balance of power on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in favor of Democratic appointees by a 7-4 margin. They joined a fourth Obama appointee, Sri Srinivasan, whose nomination had sailed through in May 2013.