Senate Republicans are not going to let Harry Reid’s filibuster reform power trip go down without a fight.
This week the Senate Republican Caucus launched a new website, “Stop the Nuclear Option,” to provide Americans with more information about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) plan to change the body’s rules to prevent filibusters on the Senate floor in the next Congress.
“[Changing the rules] would weaken and possibly eliminate the minority party’s ability to debate in the United States Senate,” Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told bloggers on conference call this afternoon. “It would silence the voices of nearly half of all Americans, who are currently represented by Republicans.”
Johnson himself wants to “preserve full rights to the filibuster” and said he believes that the rule change would “harm the institution.”
According to the United States Senate website, a filibuster is an “informal term for any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions.” Under the current rules three-fifths of the present voting body, or 60 members when the full chamber is in session, is required to prevent Senators from launching a filibuster on the Senate floor.
Reid’s proposal would lower the vote count needed for cloture, the policy used to end a filibuster, to a simple majority, or 51 votes. More commonly referred to as the “nuclear option,” Reid’s rule change would allow the majority party in the chamber to effectively control all debate on legislation that reaches the Senate floor.
“In the Senate there are basically almost no rules, but one of the rules has always been that every Senator has the opportunity to amend every bill,” Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said at the Heritage Foundation’s weekly bloggers briefing Monday afternoon. “If you let that happen…eventually every Senator’s idea gets debated during the course of the given year on the floor and people vote yes or no and then they have to defend that yes or no vote.”
Blunt also pointed out that there have never been more than 56 “popularly elected” Republicans serving simultaneously in modern history, while Democrats have at times had as many as 70 Senators serving in the same session. Therefore Democrats have less incentive to keep the filibuster around.
Senate Republicans are also accusing Reid of flip-flopping on the issue. While serving as Minority Leader in 2006, Reid spoke on the Senate floor condemning the same rule change he is pursuing now.
“The threat to change Senate rules is a raw abuse of power and will destroy the very checks and balances our founding fathers put in place to prevent absolute power by any one branch of government,” Reid said in 2005.
Senate Democrats aren’t the only ones currently fighting for the end to the filibuster. Four House Democrats, along with the liberal organization Common Cause, are suing in federal court to permanently eliminate the filibuster.
Unfortunately, with Democrats gaining two seats in the next Senate, the rule change appears to be not only imminent, the floodgates will be opened and most liberal legislation in the Senate will be easily passed.