This is procedural esoterica and therefore it’s very confusing, but here’s the nutshell version: Reid’s finally lost his mind.
The Hill calls it “shocking.”
Reid appealed a ruling from the chair that Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) does not need unanimous consent to force a vote on a motion to suspend the rules to consider amendments after cloture has already been approved.
The chair, which was occupied by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), ruled under the advice of the Senate parliamentarian that Republicans had the right to force a vote on a motion to suspend the rules and proceed to President Obama’s controversial jobs bill.
Republicans planned to use this right of the minority to embarrass Obama by showing that many Democrats do not support his jobs package as originally drafted. But Reid moved to kill their plan by appealing the chair’s ruling, triggering a vote.
The maneuver is arcane but momentous. If a simple majority of the Senate votes with Reid and strikes down the ruling, the chamber’s precedent will be changed through the unilateral action of one party.
Begich’s ruling that the GOP’s amendments should be allowed was subsequently voted down, 48/51 (Ben Nelson was the only crossover), which means going forward Republicans have no right to offer amendments after cloture on a bill is invoked. (The filibuster, which is aimed at blocking the majority from invoking cloture in the first place, is unaffected by Reid’s move.) Still confused? Read Philip Klein, who has a quick, plain-English translation of what it all means. Post-cloture amendments are a cheap and easy way for the minority party to force the majority to vote on proposals that might somehow embarrass them. The embarrassing proposal in this case was … Obama’s jobs bill, which Democrats still don’t uniformly support. Apparently, to spare The One the humiliation of having members of his own party vote no on the PassThisBillRightAway Act of 2011, Reid freaked out and nuked the GOP’s right to offer amendments entirely. That’s how much of a fiasco O’s jobs plan is right now: Simply to avoid having to vote on it, longstanding Senate rules are being rewritten on the fly by … his own party.
Jim DeMint tweeted afterward, “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body now doesn’t allow minority amendments unless we get majority’s permission.” And a few minutes later, “Dems rammed through Obamacare, stimulus and now rammed through rules to gag minority rights.” I’m 99 percent sure Reid’s going to relent on this once he gets his caucus together and figures out how to handle Obama’s bill, not because he’s a swell guy but because the GOP’s highly likely to take back the Senate next year and will merrily bludgeon the Democrats with this precedent unless they revoke it pronto. Let’s see how long Reid holds out. I’d be surprised if he lasts more than a couple of days. Exit quotation: “Am I 100 percent confident that I’m right? No. But I feel pretty comfortable with what we’ve done.”