November 12, 2012
By Brian Darling
Make no mistake about it. This new talk about “Filibuster Reform” coming from Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is nothing more than a power grab by liberals in the Senate. Reid has stifled debate during his rule, and he will use the pre-text of “Filibuster Reform” to bully and squelch the minority party, much like he has done for the past few years.
The Washington Times reports, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will try to push through a change to Senate rules that would limit the GOP’s ability to filibuster bills.” Reid argued at his post-election press conference that he is intent on changing the rules to prevent the minority party from slowing passage of legislation and nominations.
Reid showed his true motivations when argued that he will continue to prevent votes on “same-sex marriage and abortion” because “I mean, the American people aren’t interested in that.” This is further evidence that reforming the Senate’s rules is merely a means to stop difficult votes for the majority party on revenue-neutral tax reform, gun rights, entitlement reform and traditional family values.
Over the past few years, this is a Majority Leader who has acted tyrannically to restrict the rights of all senators to debate and offer amendments. He has used a parliamentary tactic called “filling the amendment tree” to block a free-flowing amendment process and used a procedure to eliminate amendments after the conclusion of debate. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appropriately referred to the “charade and farce” of debate in the Senate under the tyranny of Sen. Harry Reid.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) argues that “if Reid wants to do more in the Senate he should reform his own behavior before making radical, unprecedented changes to take away the minority party’s ability to debate and amend legislation.” DeMint argues that “when Leader Reid talks about ‘filibuster reform’ what he really means is that he is ready to do away with the minority’s historic rights, which were exercised with fervor by the Democrats when they weren’t in the majority, because they are an inconvenience to his hard-left, uncompromising political agenda.”
When controlling the Senate, both parties have been guilty of trying to limit the participation of the minority party. Republicans tried to expedite the consideration of judges during the Bush administration and Reid has implemented tactics that have squelched debate during his reign.
The Senate is a continuing body, therefore the only way to get this reform across the finish line will be for Reid to steamroll Senate Rule V that provides “no motion to suspend, modify, or amend any rule, or any part thereof, shall be in order, except on one day's notice in writing, specifying precisely the rule or part proposed to be suspended, modified, or amended, and the purpose thereof.” To suspend or change the rules, Reid would need 67 votes, not 51.
Reid’s caucus will operate under the pre-text that the Senate is not a continuing body, notwithstanding the Senate’s own website, which states that “the Senate, in brief, was to be a ‘continuing body’ with one-third of its membership up for election at any one time.” Reid and his allies will have to ignore the explicit rules of the Senate to get this done on a party-line vote.
The likely ideas on the table for filibuster reform come from Sens. Tom Udall’s (D-N.M.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Udall’s proposal would eliminate the opportunity for senators to filibuster a motion to proceed to a piece of legislation, restricts the right of back-bench members to offer amendments, force a talking filibuster and restricts post cloture debate on a nominee to two hours. This is the less offensive proposal on the table.
Harkins proposal could prove the death of extended debate. The Harkin provides that after the first cloture vote happens, and if there are not 60 votes to shut off debate, the vote necessary to end debate would be reduced. The first cloture vote would take 60 votes, the second would take 57, the third would take 54 and the final would take a simple majority of 51 votes. This would allow the Senate to shut off debate on a nominee or legislation with a simply majority vote.
This is a naked power grab by Sen. Reid. Don’t be fooled by happy talk about “Filibuster Reform” in order to remove obstructionism. The real obstructionist is Senate Majority Leader Reid, who has obstructed the minority party’s right to fully participate in the workings of the Senate.
First appeared in Townhall.com.
Senior Fellow for Government Studies
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