Asked Tuesday if he’s thinking about filibuster reform with Republicans continuing to block so many of the President’s judicial and executive branch nominations, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hinted to reporters that he will have a caucus on this Thursday to discuss filibuster reform.
The Nevada Democrat said, “I’m going to have a caucus on this Thursday. And I think Thursday by the time the day is out you’ll have a better idea of what we’re going to try to do on this.”
Reid could change the rules with just 51 votes if he’s willing to use the “nuclear option” for the first time. The nuclear option is also known as the constitutional option, and basically allows the Senate to end a filibuster with a majority vote. It was, ironically, a Republican Vice President — namely Richard I-am-not-a-crook Nixon — who wrote the opinion allowing the residing officer the authority to override Senate rules.*
Democratic aides told Reuters that Reid is considering only changing the rule on filibusters for nominations, not legislation. Reuters says Reid will wait to see if Republicans block upcoming nominees before deciding to go nuclear on them. Since Republicans always obstruct, this is tantamount to saying he will wait to see if the sun comes up tomorrow.
Naturally with Reid making noise to stop the Republicans from abusing the filibuster, Republicans see themselves as victims. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who in May accused Harry Reid of “intimidating” him by even mentioning filibuster reform, got his persecution on, “Let’s get real here. That’s not how a democracy functions!”
He ought to know precisely how a democracy does not function. McConnell will filibuster anything, including his own bills, just to obstruct progress.
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) concern trolled, “I’m worried, very worried. There has been wrong on both sides, but this could destroy the Senate.” Wrong on both sides of the aisle? What is destroying the Senate is the inability to get anything done because Republicans are faux filibustering even discussions of bills.
Republicans used the filibuster 252 times during Obama’s first term and as of May 22, Senate Republicans were averaging nearly three filibusters a month in so far in 2013. Republicans have abused the “silent” filibuster to stop progress on hundreds of bills over the last four years, stopping even floor debate. Senate Republicans have been abusing the filibuster not only to stop nominations but also to keep legislation at a stand still (more of their anti-Obama tactics, unrelated to the actual policy).
Republicans deny abusing the filibuster, but the record speaks for itself. CNN reported:
But the number of filibusters by Republicans has escalated, and they have been far more willing to use the tactic than their opponents. Since 2007, the Senate Historical Office has shown, Democrats have had to end Republican filibusters more than 360 times, a historic record.
Republicans have managed to give the public Republican rule even though the public elected Democratic rule. Republicans have admitted that being obstructionist is a deliberate strategy that is working for them so far, given Democratic majorities. In 2007, former Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott explained how Republicans were getting around Democratic majorities, “The strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail… So far it’s working for us.”
Maybe Harry Reid is sick enough of it finally, or maybe he figures Democrats have a good shot of maintaining control in the Senate now. While Reid is rumored to be focused on just the nominations, not even being allowed to debate bills is unacceptable result of Republican obstruction.
One thing Senator Reid should understand is that this is bigger than just abiding by the unspoken rules of the Senate. The obstruction of the Republicans is causing real harm to the American people. This is bigger than politics, and it’s time to pull the trigger on the nuclear option. Do it for the people.
*Betsy Palmer, Changing Senate Rules: The “Constitutional” or “Nuclear” Option, Congressional Research Service report no. RL32684, updated April 5, 2005, page CRS-4.