Filibuster Harry Reid

Brian Darling

5/14/2012 12:01:00 AM - Brian Darling

Ever wonder why the Senate has voted not even once on a Second Amendment issue this year, yet cast a never ending series of votes on the Obama Agenda?  The answer is Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The Senate Majority Leader has outmaneuvered Republicans to stop “hostile” amendments and force repeated votes on Obama priorities.

The situation is far different in the House of Representatives.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been a benevolent leader, allowing extended debates and open rules on some legislation. 

Boehner’s way is better.

Reid control the Senate’s agenda by using parliamentary procedure in a manner intended to squelch dissent and marginalize Republicans.  Tea Party minded Senators would be wise to filibuster every thing Reid tries to advance until he allows members from both sides of the aisle to participate fully in the legislative process.

Last week provided a great case study of Reid’s leadership style.  The day after the House passed legislation extending the life of the Export-Import Bank, Reid attempted to take up the bill and pass it with very limited debate and no amendments.  But conservative Senators objected to a rubber stamp vote on bill.  After all, it not only would keep this bastion of crony capitalism in business for two more years, but it would boost its loan authority by another $40 billion.

Refusing to be steamrolled into an ill-considered vote, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took to the Senate floor to demand more debate to discuss ending this corporate welfare program.  Other conservatives demanded an opportunity to offer amendments. 

What?  Republicans dare request that the Senate follow all the rules before voting on a bill?!  That they be allowed to debate and amend a piece of legislation?!!  It was too much for Reid.  He threw a tantrum

On the Senate floor, the Majority Leader exploded into a tirade against the filibuster.  He praised efforts by Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to change the chamber’s rules so it would be easier for the majority to stop a filibuster.  “If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rule,” Reid concluded.

Of course, the opposite is true.  The filibuster is the one rule that should never be changed, no matter which party controls the Senate.

Reid wants to dump the filibuster so he can have more power.  If he had his way, Republicans would merely have the right to vote, with no other substantive right to participate in the legislative process. You might as well move the minority party’s seats up to the Senate gallery.

Liberal Senators held a far different view back in 2005.  Then, Sen. Barack Obama opposed the idea of getting rid of the filibuster.  It would have “changed the character of the Senate forever,” he said, and not for the better.

And then-Minority Leader Harry Reid agreed whole-heartedly.  “The right to extended debate is never more important than when one party controls Congress and the White House.  In these cases, the filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government,” he observed. 

And since Reid has been Majority Leader, he has left Republicans with only two options—either vote for the bills he brings to the floor, or filibuster them.  He does this by using an obscure parliamentary tool—called “filling the amendment tree”—to block Republican opportunities to offer amendments on bills.  Reid has used this trick to bar GOP amendments on over 50 bills since becoming Majority Leader.  He has employed this marginalizing tactic more times than all of his predecessors combined.

Today, the Tea Party is angry because they don’t see allies in Congress fighting all that hard.  They don’t understand why Republicans aren’t fighting harder against ideas like the Export-Import Bank.  They want to see some fire in the belly. 

In the Senate, that can boil down to a simple motto:  Filibuster Harry Reid.