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Tipsheet

It Begins: Reid Proposes Changing Filibuster Rules

No one should be the least bit surprised; Reid's been talking about this for awhile, and even moved unilaterally to alter long-standing Senate rules to shield his members from difficult votes last year (mission accomplished).  Filibuster "reform:" Coming soon to a Senate near you?
 

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will try to push through a change to Senate rules that would limit the GOP’s ability to filibuster bills. Speaking in the wake of Tuesday’s election, which boosted Senate Democrats’ numbers slightly, Mr. Reid said he won’t end filibusters altogether but that the rules need to change so that the minority party cannot use the legislative blocking tool as often. “I think that the rules have been abused and that we’re going to work to change them,” he told reporters. “Were not going to do away with the filibuster but we’re going to make the Senate a more meaningful place.” Republicans, who have 47 of the chamber’s 100 seats in this current Congress, have repeatedly used that strong minority to block parts of President Obama’s agenda on everything from added stimulus spending to his judicial picks.

A filibuster takes 60 senators to overcome it. Leaders of both parties have been reluctant to change the rules because they value it as a tool when they are in the minority. But Mr. Reid said things changed over the last few years when he repeatedly faced off against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, who had said his chief political goal was defeating Mr. Obama. Mr. Reid said that led the GOP to abuse the filibuster. 

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Reid's rationale is faulty and hypocritical.  I suspect he knows this, but doesn't care -- after all, his underhanded tactics and dereliction of duty was rewarded at the polls.  The historic uptick in attempted and threatened Republican "filibusters" (or some variant thereof) has correlated directly with Reid's strong-arm tactics as majority leader.  To an unprecedented degree, Reid has denied the minority the right to even offer amendments to legislation, meaning that Republicans would have no input in the structure or content of these laws.  Reid has employed this maneuver, known as "filling the amendment tree," more than his six immediate predecessors combined.  The reason he's done so is to prevent the GOP from advancing amendments that would paint Democrats into difficult political corners, a check on power that Senate minorities from both parties have used for decades.  Republicans essentially argued that if Reid insists on shutting them out of the legislation-crafting process, their only remaining recourse is threatening to block the entire bill, hence their filibuster "abuse."  The best solution to this problem would be for the Senate leadership to hammer out a compromise that would significantly curb the majority "filling the tree," in exchange for the minority curtailing their filibuster posturing.  Are our leaders capable of this?  Four final points:

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(1) Even if Republicans were itching to "abuse" the filibuster to shut down a Democratic budget, they couldn't.  Budgets only require a simple majority to pass.  Democrats have held a simple majority in the Senate for six years.  They haven't even attempted to pass a budget for the last three.  The purpose, again, was to avoid putting their own unpopular ideas on paper, thus liberating them to simply criticize the other side's solutions.  This cynical ploy was vindicated on election day, sadly.

(2) Democrats cite Republicans' inexcusable obstruction of President Obama's judicial appointments as a pressing cause for change.  In fact, the GOP has used the judicial filibuster sparingly (their frustration over this form of filibuster nearly triggered filibuster changes in 2005), adhering to the bipartisan "Gang of 14" compromise, as well as the so-called Thurmond/Leahy rule (under which the opposition blocks judicial appointments in the months leading up to a presidential election).

(3) When some Republicans proposed the "nuclear option" to limit filibusters of judicial appointees by changing the rules during the Bush years, Democrats melted down.  This idea amounted to a mortal threat to the republic, they argued in hysterical floor speeches.  California's Diane Feinstein gravely warned that the Republican plan would put the Senate on a slippery slope -- ultimately leading to tampering with the sacred legislative filibuster...which is precisely what Reid is moving to do now.  Flashback:
 

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(4) Maybe Reid can also work on abolishing the House of Representatives while he's at it.

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