Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid confirmed Monday he will push to change Senate rules and curtail some Republican filibusters next year, setting up a major test of collegiality and power politics in the usually chummy chamber that bills itself as “the world’s most exclusive club.”
Republicans said that if Mr. Reid goes ahead, he’ll not only ruin the unique nature of the Senate, but he’ll poison chances for bipartisan cooperation just as members of the next Congress are taking their seats in January.
“This is no exaggeration. What these Democrats have in mind is a fundamental change to the way the Senate operates, for the purposes of consolidating their own power,” the Kentucky Republican said. “In the name of efficiency, they would prevent the very possibility of compromise and threaten to make the disputes of the past few years look like mere pillow fights.”
The fight is not only about the filibuster, but the way the Senate writes all of its rules — of which the filibuster is just one example.
Mr. Reid plans to use his newly expanded majority to make the changes on the first day of the new Congress next year, which is the only time rules can be adopted on a simple majority vote. Any other time, a rules change requires a two-third vote, and most major changes are done through the two-thirds method.
Mr. Reid, though, said Republican blockades of bill after bill have left him no choice but to use the majority route — dubbed the “nuclear option” in some quarters — and said voters in this month’s elections showed they want faster action in the chamber.
“We’re going to follow the rules to make a couple of minor changes to make this place more efficient, and that’s what the Senate has always been about, is revising itself to become more efficient,” Mr. Reid said, dismissing GOP “threats” as bluster and wondering, “What more could they do to us?”
All sides agreed the Senate is broken. According to The Washington Times’ legislative futility index, it posted its worst session on record in 2011, and halfway through 2012 it was on pace for the second-worst.
Mr. Reid said the problem is Republicans’ delaying tactics. He said they filibuster whether to even begin debating a bill, and then can also filibuster the bill’s passage, too.
He is proposing eliminating that first chance to filibuster, though said he’d preserve the minority’s right to filibuster a bill’s final passage. He also said he’d push to make senators have to occupy the floor to conduct a filibuster, which could discourage some of them.
Though conducted in the formal style of the Senate, with each man referring to the other as “my friend,” Monday’s debate was anything but collegial.View Entire Story
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