Exposed: Harry Reid should not be allowed to manipulate Senate rules to further stifle Senators’ freedoms
On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) accidentally drew back the curtain on fabricated tales of Republican obstructionism and revealed the dark secret of Democrats who have been promoting “gridlock” in the U.S. Senate for nearly a full four years. It happened so quickly anyone who blinked missed it.
Upon filing for Senate consideration of the Transaction Account Guarantee (TAG) Act, Sen. Reid immediately “filled the tree” by offering the maximum amount of amendments permitted under the rules and filed cloture on the bill before any other Senator could speak, offer debate or filibuster the bill.
Senator Reid essentially asked the Senate to consider a bill then immediately asked to end consideration on that bill, all within the space of a mere two minutes. Some have speculated this parliamentary slight-of-hand may have made history with its sheer speed.
While proclaiming the need for filibuster “reform” and complaining of its over use by the minority, Senator Reid continues to apply these tactics, limiting debate and preventing Senators of both parties from submitting their own ideas through amendments. His actions essentially produce a “majority filibuster” which prevents the voices of citizens throughout every one of the 50 states from being heard through their Senators.
Yet, even while setting a new speed record, Sen. Reid’s tyrannical control of the calendar is nothing new. Reid has spent the last four years turning such bold obstruction into regular operating procedure for the Senate – with Tuesday marking the sixth-ninth time Sen. Reid has launched a majority filibuster.
These actions are atrocious in their violation of the purpose of the Senate in our federal government and their steamrolling of two key rights of all Senators.
On the official Senate website, the Senate Historian notes: “All senators have two traditional freedoms that, so far as is known, no other legislators worldwide possess. These two freedoms are the right to unlimited debate and an unlimited opportunity to offer amendments, relevant or not, to legislation under consideration.”
Since Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has successfully manipulated standing Senate rules to severely stifle (and in many cases, entirely eliminate) the second of these unparalleled freedoms by routinely “filling the amendment tree,” only one of those freedoms remains. With Reid’s iron-fisted control of the process — frequently preventing even Senators from his own political party from offering their own amendments — it is no wonder Senators of all stripes question the wisdom of removing their remaining freedom. In fact, it is a wonder Majority Leader Reid does not face a mutiny from within his own party.
But the story gets much, much worse. Because Reid cannot capture enough votes (despite a Democratic majority of 55 Senators) to institute his radical rules change under the existing rules (which requires 60 votes), he has proposed a method that ignores the rules entirely. Instead, Reid’s grand plan is to pretend the “Standing Rules of The Senate” simply do not exist during the first day of a new Congress – and only during the first day.
This runs into a major problem through a simple reading of Rule V, Section 2, which itself clearly states that (emphasis added): “The rules of the Senate shall continue from one Congress to the next Congress unless they are changed as provided in these rules.” Furthermore, this rule was initially adopted, at the will of the Senate itself, in recognition of the Senate’s unique place in our legislature.
For Majority Leader Harry Reid to completely ignore the rules in order to re-write the rules (something he promised he would never do) in the name of political expediency would violate matchless freedoms of every U.S. Senator while also violating the Constitution itself.
Ultimately, this boils down to three observations. One, the pervasiveness of majority filibuster and obstructionism of their own agenda has helped slow action in the Senate. Two, this atrocious behavior by the Senate Majority Leader snatches away exceptionally unique freedoms and rights of Senators from both sides of the aisle, and all deprived Senators should demand reform. And three, Majority Leader Reid’s proposal, if carried through, would irreparably depart from the rules and Constitutional provisions guiding our “most deliberative” legislative body.
This is the essence of the current debate between totalitarian forms of government and conservatives: whether existing rules can be ignored for political or popular expediency, or whether the rules must be followed in order to protect the unique freedoms and force compromise which truly moves our nation forward.
Regardless of what reforms are needed in the Senate, the rules are the rules – and those rules must be followed in order to bring about credible, positive and lasting improvement.