Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, along with 50 members of his caucus changed the rules in the Senate that would block the minority party’s amendments from consideration.
A showdown between Senator Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, erupted over the rule change after McConnell attempted to show Democrats were were not supportive of the president’s job bill by forcing the Senate to vote on it as an amendment to the China currency bill via a “motion to suspend the rules.” Other Republicans offered a number of other amendments to the China currency legislation that would be uncomfortable votes for te majority as well.
Sen. Reid, however, blocked McConnell’s move and was backed up by 50 Democrats, needing only a simple majority to stop the Republicans from adding amendments and forcing difficult votes on the majority. Reid’s move was unprecedented.
“The Senate should function like the Senate, and I acknowledge that, but we have major piece of legislation being bogged down,” said the majority leader.
“America doesn’t need less debate. It needs more debate. You were going to won on this bill—you didn’t need to jam us…” Sen. McConnell shot back. “The fundamental problem here is the majority doesn’t like to take votes.”
Senate GOP staffers immediately began tweeting out 2006 quotes from Senator Reid, including one involving minority party rights in the Senate. In 2006, then incoming Majority Leader Reid said,“As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate w/ respect for the rules & for the minority rights the rules protect.”
Other quotes of Mr. Reid that may come back to haunt him in this matter are:
“60 votes are required for just about everything.” “I have talked with Senator McConnell about this. You know, we may have to come up with a number of resolutions that require 60 votes. Because, as you know, in the Senate, a lot of times 60 votes are required for just about everything. So that’s certainly one of the things we’re taking into consideration.” (Sen. Harry Reid, Press Conference, CQ Transcriptions, 1/30/07)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): “In the Senate, it’s always been the case you need 60 votes.” (PBS’ “Charlie Rose Show,” 3/5/07)
Short term, this may be helpful for Democrats, but many are betting that their party will have problems holding on to the majority in the upper chamber. Democrats have 23 seats to defend compared to the GOP’s 10. Furhermore, a number of Democrats appear to not want President Obama campaigning for them in their states, as his unpopularity continues to be an anchor that is not helping Democratic campaign efforts. If D’s lose the Senate, Reid’s move could very well cripple the only defense Democrats may have next time around and President Obama may not be there with a veto pen either.