FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Will Red State Democrats Abjure Their Principles With the Filibuster?
It’s time for the red state Democrats in the Senate to answer the question Elijah posed to the idol-worshipers: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD [be] God, follow him; but if Baal, [then] follow him.”
Senators like Mark Pryor (AR), Mary Landrieu (LA), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Max Baucus (MT), Joe Manchin (WV), and Tim Johnson (SD) need to decide whether they stand with their constituents or with Obama, the gun-grabbers, the union thugs, and the radical environmentalists.
As early as next Tuesday, Harry Reid is planning to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, which would vitiate the filibuster, prevent rank-and-file members from ever offering amendments, and end the ability of individual members to block conference committees. He will use an illegal parliamentary maneuver to change the rules of the Senate with just 51 votes. Upon adoption of the new rules, the Senate will essentially run like the House, with the majority party’s leadership ostensibly controlling the entire agenda.
Yes, it will be the leadership of the Democrat Party that will control the agenda. So all those red state Democrats who claim to oppose amnesty, gun restrictions, anti-drilling and fracking legislation, cap and trade, and card check will have no power to stop such odious legislation – to the extent they really wish to oppose them.
Harry Reid will have the capacity to immediately proceed to a bill that bans guns without the ability of individual senators to offer amendments. Joe Manchin can profess to be pro-gun from now until his reelection, but it is unlikely that such legislation will be stopped on the final vote. The same goes for Bob Casey (and Manchin, of course) with regards to Cap and Trade. Every liberal coalition group is united behind Harry Reid’s power grab. They understand that if the rules changes are implemented, they can pass anything.
Most bills that successfully proceed to debate and amendments wind up passing on the final vote. Yet, even if the filibuster on final passage is preserved (and that will only be temporary), Reid will still have the ability to insert nefarious legislation into a conference committee report on any must-pass bill. A group of Senate Republicans, led by the inimical John McCain, has already agreed to deny individual members the ability to block conference reports. Jim DeMint often used this as a tool to thwart any attempt to parachute in bad legislation to conference reports.
So after Obama made himself king of the executive branch, Harry Reid is seeking to make himself king of the Senate.
Over the years, red state Democrats, or any other rank-and-file member, had the power to offer amendments or slow down the process of a bill that was pushed by leadership, but loathed by their constituents. Senators like Heidi Heitkamp, Mark Pryor, Mary Landreiu, Claire McCaskill, and Joe Manchin need to think long and hard before they hand over the keys of the Senate to Reid, Schumer, Feinstein, and Boxer.
In that sense, this is not really a conservative issue. Any individual member who is not in leadership will lose his or her ability and power as a senator to stop legislation that is inimical to his/her respective state. These Democrats would be wise to join with Republicans next week in fighting the rules changes.
If Harry Reid obdurately sticks to his plan to use the nuclear option, Republicans should engage in jujitsu and call up their own rules changes. What’s good for the goose is goose for the gander, and if Reid believes that only 51 votes are needed to change the Senate rules on the first legislative day, then everything else is fair game. Conservatives should propose rule changes instituting a ‘point of order’ against any legislation that violates any aspect of the Bill of Rights – with a requirement of 67 votes to strike it down. This will enable any senator to object to any gun control bill (or any other power grab) and require a 67 vote threshold to advance the bill.
If Harry Reid wants to end the filibuster, he will have to pay the price. While Republicans only have 45 votes, they would be wise to pressure the self-professed pro-gun Democrats to join in the enactment of these point of orders.
If red state Democrat senators fail to fight against Harry Reid’s power grab, they will reveal themselves to be nothing but conduits for the far-left of their party.
Cross-posted from The Madison Project