He might be bluffing or playing to the MSNBC audience, but don't be so sure. He's already changed Senate rules on the fly to deny Republicans the opportunity to force uncomfortable votes and exploded Senate precedent on the amendment process within the last few years. Next up: Legislative filibuster Hiroshima?
In May, Harry Reid apologized for killing off a 2010 filibuster reform bill, admitting that the legislative procedure has been “abused, abused, and abused.” Reid has now gone a step farther: the Senate Majority Leader is now openly promising to pass filibuster reform in the beginning of the next Congress if Democrats manage to hold onto a simple majority in the Senate and if Obama is reelected. Reid made the remarks on Friday to MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, a day after Democrats were unable to overcome the GOP threat of a filibuster on a small-business tax-cut bill, which failed on a 53-44 vote:
REID: They’re just trying to kill this bill, as they’ve killed scores of other bills we’ve had because they’re filibustering. They’re filibustering until we have to change the rules. We can’t go on like this anymore. I don’t want to get rid of the filibuster, but I have to tell you, I want to change the rules and make the filibuster meaningful. The filibuster is not part of our constitution, it came about as a result of our wanting to get legislation passed, and now it’s being used to stop legislation from passing.
SCHULTZ: But you’d change the rules…
REID: Oh, we could have done it in the last Congress. But I got on the Senate floor and said that I made a mistake and I should have helped with that. It can be done if Obama is re-elected, and I can still do it if I have a majority, we can do it with a simple majority at the beginning of the next Congress.
SCHULTZ: Think the President will go along with that?
REID: You damn betcha.
Republicans have launched an unprecedented number of filibusters because Reid has used unprecedented tactics to block them from forcing tough votes or even offering amendments to legislation. (See: "filling the tree.") The only recourse for an otherwise powerless Senate minority, therefore, is to block cloture. This gridlock is a byproduct both of Reid's dreadful leadership and of the American people's will, which sent 63 new House members and seven new Republican Senators in 2010 explicitly to obstruct the Democrats' extreme agenda. Also, notice how Reid talks tough about nuking the filibuster only "if Democrats manage to hold onto a simple majority in the Senate and if Obama is reelected." Wait, so majority leader Reid wouldn't blow up decades of Senate comity and precedent under a President Romney? How very curious! I wonder why he'd suddenly rewind his jeremiad against long-established minority rights in that case. I'll leave you with this classic clip of pretty much every single Democrat Senator (including you-know-who) railing against the "tyranny" of the so-called nuclear option when Republicans were considering a form of it in 2005:
Keep in mind that this was all in response to a limited anti-filibuster maneuver (ultimately averted by the Gang of 14), which would have required a simple majority only for judicial appointments. After all, Article II of the Constitution says that the president "shall appoint" members of the judiciary, with merely the"advice and consent" of the Senate. James Madison had argued that a super-majority should be required to block such an appointment. The most relevant quote in the montage comes from California's Diane Feinstein:
"It begins with judicial nominations. Next will be executive appointments. And then, legislation."
Democrats vociferously objected to the judicial nuclear option a few years ago because it could open the door to the unthinkable: Doing away with the sacrosanct legislative filibuster. If Democrats win, Reid is promising to skip straight to that ultimate detonation.