Morning Bell: The Urgent Danger in the Senate
Amy Payne /
Think your state has equal representation in the Senate? Well, that could be eliminated soon.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid—a Democrat from Nevada—is trying to ensure that he personally has the final say on all legislation. And under one plan being considered, only three other Senators would be allowed any meaningful contributions.
Reid has been talking with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) about an agreement on this nefarious plan. But whether it passes with McConnell’s blessing or without, it is dangerous to everyone not represented by Harry Reid.
Until, of course, Harry Reid is no longer a Senator. Then, the scepter of power would pass to the next Majority Leader. But Reid and his gang aren’t thinking about that day. They’re thinking about today—and the ability to pass legislation without any opposition.
The ill-named “filibuster reform” proposals floating around on Capitol Hill include the following:
- Make it easier for one party to pass legislation, even if half the Senate disagrees: To stop debate on a contentious issue, 60 votes are now required. But the proposal being floated would create a way for the Majority Leader to pass any proposal with only 51 votes.
- Create four “Super Senators” who hold the true power: Only four Senators would be able to offer amendments to legislation, effectively shutting out the other 96 from the legislative process.
- Special power for the Majority Leader: The Majority Leader (now Reid) would have the special authority to add an amendment after debate is finished on a particular bill. Combined with the 51-vote threshold, this change would allow the Majority Leader to jam through just about anything without the Senate even debating it.
In short, this is a terrible plan that would hand all of the Senate’s power to four people and would turn the Majority Leader into a tyrant.
It’s such a bad idea that even Reid himself argued against similar changes—when he was in the minority.
Back then, so long ago in 2005, Reid was a strong defender of the minority party’s right to filibuster legislation and slow the progress of bills.
Reid said then:
one of the good things about this institution we have found in the 214 years it has been in existence is that the filibuster, which has been in existence since the beginning, from the days of George Washington…in all the political writings about filibuster, that is one of the things they talk about as a positive. It forces people to get together because sometimes in this body you become very fixed.
Likewise, then-Senator Barack Obama agreed in 2005:
what [the American people] don’t expect, is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet…everyone in this chamber knows that 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 the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.
Much as he did with the debt ceiling, President Obama has already made the case against his party’s current position. And a good case it was.
Think of all the legislation Democrats want to pass in the new Congress—and then imagine them doing it without any opposition whatsoever. That’s the urgent danger in the Senate.
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