Senate Democrats Poised for Power Grab
Senate Democrats are going to be working over the Christmas break to deliver a lump of coal to the American people in the form of a radical changing of the Senate’s rules. This is a naked power grab by liberals in the Senate pure and simple.
The National Journal reports that Senate Democrats are laying the groundwork to chip away at the filibuster on January 5, 2011. They are going to push the idea that a simple majority of the Senate can abolish the filibuster rules, or radically change the rules, in a new Congress.
All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules. The letter, delivered this week, expresses general frustration with what Democrats consider unprecedented obstruction and asks Reid to take steps to end those abuses. While it does not urge a specific solution, Democrats said it demonstrates increased backing in the majority for a proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others, to weaken the minority’s ability to tie the Senate calendar into parliamentary knots.
They are angry that they could not railroad through the Senate legislation imposing Card Check, a Public Option for ObamaCare and Climate Change. Now it is pay back time.
These liberals intend on making it harder for Republicans to participate in the legislative process. They are also setting the table to make it easier to sieze control of the Supreme Court if any of the conservative leaning members decide to retire.
Republicans would be smart to fire back with a proposed rule to abolish the Senate Majority Leader’s power to block amendments to bills, create at 2/3rds supermajority before 2nd Amendment rights can be infringed and a 2/3rds supermajority before increasing the debt limit. If Democrats want to change the rules with a simple majority, conservatives have the power to fire back with a series of new Senate rules to make it harder for liberals to expand government. It is clear that many liberals have not gamed out the consequences of this radical idea.
Liberals are going to destroy the tradition of extended debate and a free amendment process in the Senate if they can pull off this procedural coup. They want to set a precedent that the Senate can toss aside the rules with a simple majority vote. Liberals will regret this power grab if Republicans take over the Senate and Presidency in 2013, yet they seem so intent on short term gain that they don’t care about the long term consequences for members of the minority party.
Ironically, it is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who has caused the unprecendented number of Senate filibusters with his strong arm tactics. Bill Wichterman, former high ranking Senate Republican leadership staffer and expert in the Senate’s rules, wrote over at at National Review Online in a piece titled “Blame Ried, Not Republicans, for ‘Obstructionism‘” that Reid is to blame for the large numbers of filibusters over the past two years.
We’ve all heard the complaint: Republicans are the “Party of No.” But the GOP’s historic number of filibusters is the only viable response to Sen. Harry Reid’s unprecedentedly authoritarian rule of the Senate. Senator Reid has blocked the minority from amending bills more than any Senate majority leader in history — and more times than the last four Senate majority leaders combined.
Wichterman explains the way Senator Reid has abused his authority as Majority Leader to stifle the free amendment process in the Senate. Republicans responded with filibusters.
How does Senator Reid do this? He uses his right to be recognized first by the chair to offer just enough amendments to bills to block any further amendments. These amendments are usually meaningless, like changing a word or a date, but they effectively block the minority’s opportunity. This is a clear abuse of the spirit, if not the letter, of the Senate’s rules, and that is one reason why we have witnessed Republicans’ frequent use of the filibuster.
Retiring Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) agrees with Wichterman and lashed out (as reported in The Hill) at the this practice in his farewell speech.
In his final floor speech, Specter criticized Reid and other recent majority leaders for the “tyrannical” practice of routinely refusing to let senators offer amendments on the legislation.
Wichterman argues that Reid could solve this problem, not with a rules change, but with him allowing more debate and an open amendment process.
If Senator Reid wants to pass legislation, he can changes his ways and let the Senate be the Senate, providing an open and fair debate. Or he can stay the course, refusing to let the minority have a voice, and see gridlock ensue. The choice is Reid’s.
It looks like Reid has chosen a different route. Democrats are working like devious Grinches this Christmas to build a mechanism to take away the rights of Senators to participate in the legislative process. Consider this gift a big fat lump of coal to incoming Senators and the American people.
Merry Christmas Red Staters — get some rest for the next hill to fight on — defending the filibuster.