Senate Rules Changed for the Worse

Blog Articles · Jan 24, 2013 · Cronyism

Yesterday, the senators approved two resolutions that will prove to be a great detriment to equal representation in the Senate. S.Res. 15, a resolution to improve procedures for consideration of legislation, was agreed to by a vote of 78 to 16. S.Res. 16, a resolution amending the Standing Rules of the Senate, was agreed to in the Senate by a vote of 86 to 9.

On the surface, these changes sound innocuous, but they are anything but. As we explained in our key vote against both resolutions, "Together, the rule changes would weaken the rights of the Senate minority and limit the opportunity of individual senators to represent their constituents."

A piece in the Huffington Post explained that Reid's desire to change the Senate rules was a manifestation of his frustration at not getting his way more often. But as a member of a body that was designed by the Founders to be deliberative, and hence somewhat slow moving, he has done a disservice to the American people by weakening the ability of those in the minority in the Senate.

We explained yesterday:

Allowing the majority to avoid an open debate will not fix the Senate; it will simply allow lawmakers - especially those with seniority - to avoid accountability. As then-Senator Obama said in 2005, "the fighting and bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse."

Of course, it is convenient for him as long as Reid's party is in the majority. In fact, National Review's Andrew Stiles points out a longer-term threat:

And there is also the nightmare scenario: the (unlikely but not impossible) event that Democrats retake the House in 2014, and retain a majority in the Senate, with minority rights in that chamber having been significantly weakened.
That would allow Obama to finish out his second term as he started his first - with an emboldened Democratic Congress to effectively rubber-stamp his agenda. "I don't even want to think about it," says one GOP aide.

Yes, right now Reid and his fellow Democrats are focusing on consolidating their power, but the pendulum will one day swing the other way. When it does, don't be surprised if Reid's viewpoint on filibuster sounds more like it did when he was in the minority party years ago. At that time, he viewed filibuster in a much more favorable light.

To quote Harry Reid, circa 2005: ultimately, this is about removing the last check in Washington against complete abuse of power.

Related Links:

Filibuster Deal Restricts Senators' Rights to Debate Judicial Nominees