The man’s an established liar, a bizarre obsessive, a remorseless slanderer — but you already knew that. He’s also, unsurprisingly, an exquisite hack. Ever since voters demoted Prince Harry in November, his views on various Senate protocols and precedents have undergone a remarkable and dramatic evolution. He who grinningly nuked filibuster rules in 2013 has suddenly mustered strange new respect for the practice:
Sen. Reid yesterday: “The filibuster is an indispensable tool of the minority”
— STEW (@StewSays) January 8, 2015
In fairness, filibuster-related hypocrisy is hardly uncommon among partisans, although certain manifestations of these expedient flip-flops are uniquely hilarious in their flagrancy and transparency. Reid’s more egregious shamelessness comes in the form of his recent attacks on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he accuses of strong-arming the legislative process by limiting amendment votes on the Keystone Pipeline bill:
I’ve never seen debate shut down as aggressively as when Sen. McConnell refused to allow Dems to debate their own amendments for just 1 min. — Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) January 26, 2015
This is rich. Richer, in fact, than Reid himself has become during his tenure as a supposed “public servant.” The minority leader hopes Americans will forget that until very recently, he held McConnell’s title. For the full duration of calendar year 2014, Harry Reid permitted precisely 15 amendment votes* on all legislation taken up by the United States Senate. Total. Prior to Reid’s tweet above, the new Republican-controlled Senate had already surpassed that number in one week, and had held 24 votes on amendments to the Keystone bill alone. Democrats (who’ve been praising the more functional system under McConnell) have taken to griping that the Republican majority is betraying its pledge to respect an “open amendment process” by trying to place some limits on endless offerings. They mounted a filibuster to block the latest cloture vote — a maneuver they railed against as ‘extreme obstructionism’ until roughly three weeks ago — in order to demand more votes on amendments. According to Senate sources, nearly 20 additional amendments will be debated between today and tomorrow, bringing the total to more than 40. On one bill. After Reid permitted 15 all year in 2014. Even Democratic members who say they support the pipeline are falling in line with Reid in this procedural dispute:
Casey spox says he still supports Keystone XL project, but voted no tonight because he wants Dems to be able to offer more amendments
— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) January 26, 2015
That would be Sen. Bob Casey, Democrat of Pennsylvania, who voted for cloture on Keystone two months ago when it was (forcibly retired) Sen. Mary Landrieu’s bill, and on which…zero amendments were allowed by Reid. Now he, like Reid, is gripped by amendment fevah. Having risked boring you to death with an entire post about arcane parliamentary practices, I’ll double down with two more points: (1) In his precious tweet, Reid exclaims that he’s never before seen “debate shut down as aggressively” as McConnell’s move this week. For an extra insight into how loony tunes this assertion is, bear in mind that as majority leader, Reid resorted to the unprecedented use of a ploy called “filling the amendment tree.” This gambit is a heavy-handed method of preventing any amendments (including some from his own party) to be offered on a bill. By 2012, Reid had already employed this tactic more than his five immediate predecessors combined, and he continued to rely heavily on the scheme throughout 2013 and 2014. He single-handedly blocked all amendments on a parade of bills, yet he assails McConnell’s modest efforts to push for a final Keystone vote as the most “aggressive” debate-killing thuggery he’s ever witnessed. What a joke. (2) In case you’d forgotten, this lengthy debate is over a piece of bipartisan legislation that requires the federal government to do nothing other than get out of the way of a privately-funded, job-creating infrastructure project that’s been “studied” for six years, is environmentally sound, has the strong backing of a close ally, and is overwhelmingly supported by the American people. That is what Democrats are currently delaying, and what President Pragmatism has vowed to veto. No wonder people hate this town.
*I had a Twitter exchange with one of Reid’s aides earlier in the week, who argued that this statistic was artificially gamed by Republicans. I explained why his point was weak, while others noted that the moves he’s complaining about are now being used by his own party. Ultimately, I said, no one can successfully spin the ‘three weeks vs. all of 2014‘ amendment scorecard, pointing out that even Huffington Post correspondents are laughing at Democrats’ preposterous faux umbrage.