What makes the newest United States Senator more powerful than a ten-term Representative? Every Senator has the power to stop consideration of any legislation until his concerns are addressed or sixty of his colleagues agree to override his objection.
That power, better know as the filibuster, is regularly asserted by Senators when they place a hold upon various bills. A hold is really a threat to filibuster. With up to six separate opportunities to filibuster any bill, a hold is a powerful tool to force the Senate to take due consideration of each and every Senator's concerns.
"It's difficult to work around a Senator. Ultimately, it's a cloture vote. It's very time-consuming, and you can't do that on most issues," Maryland Senator Ben Cardin told THE POLITICO newspaper.
Before the August recess, the Senate is expected to consider a proposal by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) which would make the Senate more like the House of Representatives, where a one-vote majority is all that is needed to run roughshod over the interests of the minority.
Reid is cleverly disguising the impact of his idea by framing it as a means to undercut the already unpopular anti-spending hawk, Senator Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK).
Coburn is not afraid to block legislation, even when his actions hit close to home. Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE), reports THE POLITICO, "still betrays some anger after being in Coburn's crosshairs a few months back over an earmark that Nelson was pushing for a Nebraska company which employed his son." The Alaska delegation still is smarting over Coburn's exposure of the so-called "Bridge to Nowhere," its multibillion dollar raid on the Federal Treasury.
Reid plans a single up-or-down vote on a package of seventy or more spending proposals to which Dr. Coburn has objected. This massive bill, already nicknamed the "Coburn Omnibus," is a frontal assault on the rights of all Senators.
Reid spokesman Jim Manley gave the game away when he told THE POLITICO that Coburn is "exercising his rights as a Senator, but his approach is contrary to the traditions of collegiality and bipartisan compromise in the Senate. No wonder it's so hard to get things done when a handful of junior members insist on a their-way-or-the-highway approach to legislating."
Senator Reid has not exactly been a shrinking violet when it comes to "my-way-or-the-highway" legislating. Reid has spent years blocking efforts to store spent nuclear fuel rods in Yucca Mountain, Nevada, terming the proposal "the screw Nevada bill," before recently cutting the budget for this program by $108 million.
Manley has also said: