The rules of the Senate currently ensure a balanced approach to debating important matters. Among them is the filibuster, which requires 60 votes to end debate on a motion and move to a vote. The filibuster’s purpose is to force competing groups of senators to find compromise solutions rather than ram through items driven by the extremes of either party.
Yet Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to undo this system by eliminating the 60-vote threshold.
Under the current rules, the Senate’s minority party has limited opportunities to influence legislation. It can do so in three main ways: by offering amendments in committee, by offering amendments on the Senate floor, and by negotiating with the majority party before the so-called cloture vote to end debate.
Sen. Reid has already gutted two of these three opportunities, which is a major reason for today’s stalemate.
He has made unprecedented use of Senate Rule 14, for example, which allows the majority leader to bypass committees and write bills behind closed doors. Sen. Reid has used this rule to skip committees nearly 70 times, bringing bills straight to the floor—with zero input from members of the minority.
His other favorite maneuver, called “filling the tree,” involves filling all the slots for amendments on the Senate floor so that no other senator (of either party) can offer one. He has done this 69 times since becoming majority leader in 2007. That is more than twice as often as the last four majority leaders combined.
I was planning to write that since the filibuster is a Senate rule, the Senate is entitled to change it. And woe betide the Democrats if they change the rule and then fall into the minority. (When they’d only squeal like stuck pigs to change it back.)
But then I read the details, as outlined above. Harry Reid, like Nancy Pelosi when she was House Speaker, and Barack Obama in the White House, is a Democrat who doesn’t believe in democracy. Czars, railroading, “deeming”, taxes that aren’t taxes, recess appointments—Republicans have engaged in some (though not all) of these tactics, but nowhere near to the degree of this Axis of Evil.
In their push to jettison the 60-vote threshold, they are peddling the false notion that they can change Senate rules with a simple majority as long as they do so at the beginning of a new Congress. In fact, a change to the rules always requires 67 votes. Otherwise, any group of 51 senators could change the rules whenever they liked. The Senate has never worked that way.
When they served in the Senate, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden fought against the very steps Sen. Reid is trying to take today. In 2005, then-Sen. Obama said: “If the majority chooses to end the filibuster—if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate—then the fighting and bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.” Then-Sen. Biden agreed, saying: “At its core, the filibuster is not about stopping a nominee or a bill, it is about compromise and moderation.”
The Senate was designed to be the more deliberative body. With fewer members than the House, who serve terms three times longer, the Senate is meant to be cushioned from the violent swings of public sentiment. But under Reid, deliberation itself is under assault.
I always thought Harry Reid was just a partisan hack. Then I read his reprehensible comments about Mitt Romney and the faith they share, and I realized what a despicable human being he is. Now I read this, and I learn what the offspring of partisan hackery and reprehensible despicability looks like.