It’s probably a harbinger of sell-outs to come. But Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell is apparently about to conclude an agreement with Majority Leader Harry Reid which would sell out conservatives and decimate minority rights under the Senate rules.
The first of two changes would allow Harry Reid -– and only Harry Reid –- to circumvent the debatable motion to proceed and move directly to a controversial bill.
As you may remember from the ObamaCare fight, the filibuster of the motion to proceed is the last point where conservatives can force a vote on the committee-reported bill -– prior to Reid’s vote-buying let’s-make-a-deal legislative bribery exercise.
If Reid followed this procedure, McConnell could offer two “germane” amendments on behalf of Republicans. But, although the definition of “germaneness” has fluctuated, following the criminal code battle of 1982, it has usually been the case that the addition of a single word to the underlying text which is not a “limiting” word would make any amendment non-germane.
In other words, Republicans could offer amendments to strike text, but not much else. And, given the willingness of Democrats to destroy the Senate rules by brute force, don’t expect that germaneness will be interpreted in any way other than its narrowest construction.
The second Reid-McConnell amendment would make it virtually impossible to stop a bill from going to House-Senate conference.
Currently, if conservatives suspect Democrats intend to take a tiny bill and write comprehensive gun control in House-Senate conference, they can stop it from going to conference and require that it be bounced back-and-forth in an amendable form (ping-ponged) between the two Houses.
They can do this because it takes at least nine days to approve the three sequential filibusterable motions necessary to send a bill to conference. The difficulty in sending a bill to conference is because, as a practical matter, the conference can write a massive bill in conference from the ground up -– and because the conference report is COMPLETELY UNAMENDABLE.
Yes, there are “scope of conference” rules. But, in practice, they are worthless.
The bottom line?
Given that Harry Reid has consistently abused the Senate rules and locked Republicans out of the amendment process, why should McConnell reward him with this massive expansion of his powers?
And what does this say about the likelihood that McConnell will show any courage on guns, immigration, and the debt?