In an effort to compromise with minority Republicans, Majority Leader Senator Harry Reid struck a deal with Republican Leader McConnell Thursday to make minor changes to the Senate rules regarding the filibuster Roll Call reported. This deal can hardly be called reform.
All the deal does, in a nut shell, is give Republicans fewer opportunities to block legislation with only 41 votes. They can still block Democratic bills or President Obama’s nominees with 41 votes even if 49 other Senators vote yes.
Reid struck the deal because he did not want to use the so-called nuclear option to pass meaningful reform to the biggest travesty in American government. The Senate rules allow any Senator to hold up legislation by declaring a filibuster. It takes 60 votes to break the filibuster. Since Obama was elected Republicans have used the filibuster to thwart the majority over 300 times—by far the most in history.
This is the single biggest reason Washington is gridlocked and the people’s work is not getting done.
Normal order would require 60 voters to change the rules. There are only 55 Democrats including the two independents who caucus with Democrats. However, Democrats could have used a maneuver to change the rules that only required 51 votes. Reid would have to allow it, but he preferred making a deal with McConnell which could be a deal with the devil in this case.
Democratic reformers in the Senate were pushing Reid to allow a vote on meaningful reform. They will undoubtedly be unhappy with this crumb Reid is tossing them.
What is more troubling is that parts of the deal are not even going to be in the rules, they will be a hand shake agreement between Reid and McConnell. They had such a deal two years ago but Republicans led by McConnell ignored it.
The new rule simply cuts the time frame Republicans have to filibuster, and the time required to find 60 votes to stop a filibuster. It reduces the number of opportunities Republicans have to kill something using a filibuster from three to one. This only means they have to round up their folks one time rather than three times. It only makes it easier for the minority Republicans, not harder.
Whether angry Democrats will try and push something with 51 votes and buck Reid remains to be seen but it is doubtful. It is also doubtful if 51 Democrats would have voted yes on the reforms if Reid allowed it. Perhaps that is why he negotiated for a symbolic crumb. Last count several Democrats were on the fence.
At the end of the day, the American people lose. This deal removes almost all hope that the Senate will be able to pass the agenda the voters wanted when they gave Democrats a bigger majority in the Senate, and elected President Obama.
President Obama was correct when he said it is nearly impossible to reform Washington from the inside.
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