“Stunning,” wrote the Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein. “Shocking,”said the Alexander Bolton in The Hill. “Procedural chaos,” as Manu Rajudescribed it in Politico.
In political drama that Aaron Sorkin couldn’t havethought-up, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the so-called “NuclearOption” last night, using a simple majority vote to effectively rewrite theSenate rules to further tilt the playing field in favor of the majority party.
The Senate is a procedural mess that only a parliamentarian(or avid C-Span viewer) could appreciate, but I’ll attempt to break it down assimply as possible.
Under normal rules, if 60 Senators agree to invoke cloturein order to end a filibuster then 30 hours of debate is granted. During thattime amendments may be considered if both sides agree or if 67 Senators vote infavor of a “motion to suspend the rules.”
This allows the Minority at least some proceduralprotection, especially important now that Leader Reid almost always “fills thetree” – meaning he shuts out the minority’s ability to offer amendments byfilling all the open slots with inconsequential amendments from his own party.
Have I lost you yet?
Last night, Sen. Mitch McConnell, frustrated by hisinability to secure any votes on Republican amendments, filed a “motion tosuspend the rules.” It was doomed to fail, but at least it was a way to getDemocrats’ opposition on record.
Then Leader Reid did something unprecedented. He filed a “pointof order” that any motion to suspend would not be allowed after a filibusterwas broken.
Now, I’ve probablylost you at this point, and at any rate I’m starting to confuse myself, so I’llsum it up this way: By a simple majority vote Harry Reid broke with decades ofSenate precedent in order to shut down the minority. Or as Allahpundit saidmore succinctly: “This is procedural esoteric and therefore it’s veryconfusing, but here’s the nutshell version: Reid’s finally lost his mind.”
For something as momentous as this, you’d at least thinkthat Reid was sure in his procedural footing. You’d be wrong. After the vote Reidsaid,“Am I 100 percent confident that I’m right? No. But I feel pretty comfortablewith what we’ve done.”
Such nonchalance when fundamentally toying with the rules ofwhat has been dubbed “the world’s greatestdeliberative body” is troubling at best, frightening at worst. Then again,it’s highly likely that Senator Reid will likely backtrack on this rule change,not because he knows it wouldn’t be enormously helpful in pushing through hisagenda this term, but because the political winds may soon be blowing his partyout of the majority, and Reid out of his spot as Majority Leader.
If only the Senate could set aside its political chicaneryand procedural machinations and actually go about the business of passingpro-growth legislation perhaps we’d see at least a dash of hope in our economy.Then again if they did that, it would truly be “shocking” and “stunning.”