Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has roamed the halls of Congress’ upper chamber since before Ronald Reagan became president, but declined last year to seek re-election. One imagines, therefore, that he has some notion of how the Senate operates – or at least should operate.
Before tearing into his own party during his farewell address, however, he urged the nation to stay hopeful and optimistic.
“Many foresee a continuation of polarization and partisanship in the Senate and say that it’s naïve to suggest that the next Congress might come together, break out of gridlock, and accomplish great things,” he said. “But I know the Senate can do better because I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. The Senate has indeed demonstrated, even in our own era, that bipartisanship is not extinct. The Senate Armed Services committee has upheld a more than 50-year tradition of bipartisan cooperation to produce an annual Defense Authorization Act that advances the security of our nation. I’m grateful to the members of the US military and their families for their selfless sense of duty.”
Striking a somewhat different tone, however, he also took a swipe at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his supporters for agreeing to overturn "decades of Senate precedent" by nuking the filibuster – a contentious maneuver Sen. Reid himself once vigorously opposed.
“Indeed, it is protection of the minority that is the singular hallmark of the United States Senate,” Levin reminded his colleagues. “The majority cannot always have its way. “
“I believe the excessive use of the filibuster to obstruct confirmation of President Obama’s nominees was damaging to the Senate and to the nation,” he acknowledged. “But the Senate majority eliminated obstructions to presidential nominations through the use of the nuclear option, effectively accomplishing a rules change outside the rules, a method I could not support. In doing so, a precedent was established that the majority could effectively change the rules as it wished, by overruling the chair and the parliamentarian. That precedent will not serve the country well in the future, because it leaves the minority with no protection, diminishing the unique role of the United States Senate. I hope the Senate next year considers reversing that precedent while simultaneously, and I emphasize simultaneously, amending the rules so as to assure a president’s ability to fulfill his or her constitutional duties."
You can watch his entire speech below: