GOP to Reid on filibuster rules: Do you really want to have this fight right now?

posted at 3:31 pm on November 26, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s bid to alter Senate rules to limit the tools at the minority party’s disposal is perhaps one of his most hypocritical, ill-fated attempts at ‘leadership’ yet, and that’s saying something. Way back when, during the days of the Democratic minority of yesteryear, he was vehemently opposed to measures that would curtail the Senate’s filibuster options — but now that those dastardly Republicans have ostensibly crossed some imaginary line of what he deems to be too much filibustering, he’s all too eager to cut down on the minority party’s powers. Has the man ever paused to consider that it takes two to tango? As in, sure, Republicans might be filibustering with unusual frequency, but perhaps it’s Reid’s own domineering, “compromise means doing what I want”-style leadership that has driven them to do so? Maybe?

Reid is trying to rally his full caucus and is threatening to pass a package of rule changes by a simple majority, rather than the traditional two-thirds consensus, at the start of the new Congress in which the Democrats’ ranks will increase to 55 seats. Suffice it to say, Republicans are decidedly not warming up to what will amount to a flagrant abuse of majority power in fundamentally altering the Senate’s historical role. Politico reports:

“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”

“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.” …

Republicans say this is a problem of the Democrats’ own making. They blame Reid for quickly attempting to shut down debate without giving Republicans a chance to offer amendments, even on bills that skip the committee process entirely. …

“If what [Reid] talks about doing is in fact what he does, … then that reduces that much more leverage of the minority to insist on an open amendment process,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said. “I worry about it.” …

Yes, by all means Sen. Reid, let’s trample on the rights that equally benefit whichever party happens to be in the minority and encourage moderation and restraint, and stir up another outrageous partisan-fueled distraction at a time when our country faces an unprecedented fiscal crisis — but it looks like Republicans are starting to signal that if Reid really wants to take that road, they’ll throw everything they have at him.

I’m with Richard Arenberg on this one:

No one should be fooled. Once the majority can change the rules by majority vote, the Senate will soon be like the House, where the majority doesn’t consult the minority but simply controls the process. Gone would be the Senate’s historic protection of the minority’s right to speak and amend. In the House, the majority tightly controls which bills will be considered; what amendments, if any, will be in order; how much time is allotted for debate; and when and under what rules votes occur. Often, no amendments are permitted. …

In recent days President Obama and the leaders of the House and Senate have called for bipartisan cooperation. Imposing rules changes by partisan fiat would be just the opposite and would destroy the fabric of the Senate. Now is a good time for a new gang of senators to rise above partisan bickering and negotiate changes based on what’s best for the Senate and our democracy, not just what’s best for the majority.


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