In my somewhat Kafkaesque write-up of Thursday night's "nuclear" meltdown in the Senate, I wondered if the GOP might be bothered to do anything to push back against Harry Reid's unprecedented power grab. It appears I may already have my answer. The Hill reports that Republican lawmakers are plotting to use the (remaining) tools at their disposal to make Reid's life as miserable as possible:
Senate Republicans vow they will retaliate for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) decision to unilaterally change the Senate’s rules Thursday without prior warning or negotiation. Republican aides say their bosses will now be even more reluctant to allow the Senate to conduct routine business by unanimous consent, forcing Reid to gather 60 votes for even the most mundane matters. “Reid fired a major salvo and it’s hard to imagine a return shot won’t be fired. Maybe over the weekend they’ll come up with something and try to make it less worse than it already is,” said a Senate GOP leadership aide.
Triggering what has come to be known as the chamber’s “nuclear option,” Reid overturned Senate precedent that allowed Republicans to force votes to proceed to non-germane amendments. He did so by voting with 50 of his Democratic colleagues to overturn a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian. The controversial procedural tactic hasn’t been used in years. In a chamber where it requires the consent of all 100 senators to dispense with the reading of a bill, changing the rules unilaterally is considered bad form. Former Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) predicted Thursday’s blow-up on the floor would have aftershocks.
“It’s obviously consequential and significant,” he said of the surprise rules change. Eric Ueland, who served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), also predicted repercussions. “Usually if you set off a nuke, you’re responsible for the fallout," he said. “There’s likely to be fallout here to the extent members on either side of the aisle feel this new gag rule impedes their ability to legislate. That has ramifications down the line.”
Never fear, America. Reid and Chuck Schumer are mulling a "bipartisan caucus meeting" to allow members to "vent" their various frustrations over Democratic leadership's stunning violation of a previously agreed-upon gentlemen's agreement:
Reid halted Senate business in the middle of consideration of the China bill Thursday night and rescheduled a return to work for Tuesday, giving angry Republicans time to cool off. He and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ messaging and strategy guru, have also proposed a bipartisan caucus meeting, to give lawmakers on both sides of the aisle chance to talk out their frustrations. Reid said he would be happy to sit down with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in an effort to mend fences.
I say Mitch McConnell should agree to the conference, but only if it's run according to the time-honored practices of Jazz Hands Democracy.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography