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.
- FLASHBACK–Reid:Effort to Curtail Filibuster Is About the Arrogance of Power (cnsnews.com)
- How to Make Harry Reid’s Power Grab Work for Conservatives (heritage.org)
- Boehner threatens to shut out Senate bills if filibuster rules changed (humanevents.com)
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
There is a feeling of deep unease in America today. That is especially so among those of us who keep and eye and an ear on the secretive power hungry Obama Administration.
Things are happening within the Obama Administration that should cause American’s to sit up and take notice. Many have. But not enough, not nearly enough.
Over the weekend the conservative side of the blogosphere was abuzz with concern over Obama’s most recent Executive Orders.
Alan Caruba’s “Executive Tyranny” hit the Internet as a bomblet then exploded into a full-sized bombshell explosion as it raced through the binary code scorching its way onto news sites, blog sites and into in-boxes. If you haven’t read it we recommend you do so right away. You will find it at:
Then, early Sunday morning, the Drudge Report posted a notice of yet another Obama Executive Order which in effect gives the President the power to take control of all modes of communications within America. If you haven’t read the report on the newest Executive Order, may we suggest you read the text at the government’s website here:
The White House
This is all very troubling, coming as it does just weeks before the most important election in the history of America.
It has the hallmark of a massive power grab by Obama and his cadre of socialist/Marxist apparatchiks within the American government. It looks, for all the world, like a quiet take-over of the government of the United States — a quiet coup de tat –American style.
These moves by Obama are MASSIVE in size and scope and will affect every single American in ways a formerly free American citizen cannot grasp.
In his article, Mr. Caruba says: “Obama is putting in force everything a tyranny requires to replace the Republic.”
The power of the Presidential Executive Order, in our opinion, is being abused by President Obama. The executive orders we noted above give the President the power to literally take-over the country (including all modes of communications) and rule it as a one man government … dare we say it … as a dictator. With the stroke of the Presidential pen the American Republic could be wiped out and in its place a new Socialist/Marxist dictatorship with Obama as the American “strongman” at the top.
Before you dismiss this as just another conspiracy theory, do a bit of research.
Don’t count on the mainstream media to inform you about any of this. They are known to be “in the tank” for Obama and news that will shine anything but flattering light on their Supreme Leader will not make it into the pages of their publications nor into any of the blocks of their TV news shows. So, dear reader, you are on your own.
These are perilous times for America. A country is at its most vulnerable when it finds itself in economic conditions such as America is enduring today. People become desperate and they do desperate things. Note how history records the ease with which Hitler came to power in Germany during a period of desperate economic times in that country.
There are always men of great ambition willing to use a crisis to their advantage. Remember: “Never let a crisis go to waste?” There are always men who believe they are the smartest and strongest among us and, somehow, (in their warped minds) they believe it is their fate in life to step in and take over and set things aright. Often those people are insane.
They are dangerous people. Such leaders have cost millions of lives, destroyed countries and continents, right up to their last breath. And it is still happening today.
Americans have gone to war on more than one occasion to stop such men and liberate their enslaved people. Never did Americans think it could happen to a country so blessed as America.
But it can — and it may be happening right before our eyes.
The American form of democracy, the American constitutional representative republic, was created for an honorable people. The Founders knew it could not survive otherwise. Unfortunately, honor is not one of the virtues in vogue in America these days, In fact, it is not even understood among most of America’s citizens in the twenty-first century. It is a code of conduct forgotten in a world driven by instant gratification, greed, and narcissism.
The men who founded this nation and drew-up the founding documents were honorable man and it never occurred to them that Americans would ever elect men without honor to high offices in the land. But, as we now know, they were wrong.
As a result, Americans are facing a threat to their freedom, their liberty, and their country.
At the risk of sounding trite: WAKE-UP, AMERICA! Reclaim your destiny as a free people. Reclaim your birthright of liberty. Reclaim your country.
If we can manage to wrest control of our government from the grasp of the social progressives now suffocating freedom and liberty in America, we stand a chance at restoring American freedom. If we fail, I see no future for a free America.
Much of the “free” is now gone from the “land of the free.” But how much “brave” is left in the “home of the brave?” I ask, because it is going to take courage to confront the power hungry leftists. Battle lines are drawn from City Hall to the White House. No matter where you are in America — you are on the front lines.
Will freedom loving Americans bolt in retreat or stand and fight? That is the determining question. What will we do? What will YOU do?
If we are lucky, we have until November to decide to reclaim our birthright. Even if we try and fail it will have been worth it. Freedom is always worth the price. ALWAYS.
J. D. Longstreet
- Executive Tyranny (papundits.wordpress.com)
- Obama Has Signed 923 Executive Orders In 40 Months (johnmalcolm.me)
Posted By Josh Rogin
As the violence in Syria spirals out of control, top officials in President Barack Obama‘s administration are quietly preparing options for how to assist the Syrian opposition, including gaming out the unlikely option of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria and preparing for another major diplomatic initiative.
Critics on Capitol Hill accuse the Obama administration of being slow to react to the quickening deterioration of the security situation in Syria, where over 5,000 have died, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Many lawmakers say the White House is once again “leading from behind,” while the Turks, the French, and the Arab League — which sent an observer mission to Syria this week – take the initiative to pursue more aggressive strategies for pressuring the Assad regime. But U.S. officials said that they are moving cautiously in order to avoid destabilizing Syria further, and to make sure they know as much as possible about the country’s complex dynamics before getting more involved.
But the administration does see the status quo in Syria as unsustainable. The Bashar al Assad regime is a “dead man walking,” State Department official Fred Hof said this month. So the administration is now ramping up its policymaking machinery on the issue. After several weeks of having no top-level administration meetings to discuss the Syria crisis, the National Security Council (NSC) has begun an informal, quiet interagency process to create and collect options for aiding the Syrian opposition, two administration officials confirmed to The Cable.
The process, led by NSC Senior Director Steve Simon, involves only a few select officials from State, Defense, Treasury, and other relevant agencies. The group is unusually small, presumably to prevent media leaks, and the administration is not using the normal process of Interagency Policy Committee (IPC), Deputies Committee (DC), or Principals Committee (PC) meetings, the officials said. Another key official inside the discussions is Hof, who is leading the interactions with Syrian opposition leaders and U.S. allies.
The options that are under consideration include establishing a humanitarian corridor or safe zone for civilians in Syria along the Turkish border, extending humanitarian aid to the Syrian rebels, providing medical aid to Syrian clinics, engaging more with the external and internal opposition, forming an international contact group, or appointing a special coordinator for working with the Syrian opposition (as was done in Libya), according to the two officials, both of whom are familiar with the discussions but not in attendance at the meetings.
“The interagency is now looking at options for Syria, but it’s still at the preliminary stage,” one official said. “There are many people in the administration that realize the status quo is unsustainable and there is an internal recognition that existing financial sanctions are not going to bring down the Syrian regime in the near future.”
After imposing several rounds of financial sanctions on Syrian regime leaders, the focus is now shifting to assisting the opposition directly. The interagency process is still ongoing and the NSC has tasked State and DOD to present options in the near future, but nothing has been decided, said the officials – one of whom told The Cable that the administration was being intentionally cautious out of concern about what comes next in Syria.
“Due to the incredible and far-reaching ramifications of the Syrian problem set, people are being very cautious,” the official said. “The criticism could be we’re not doing enough to change the status quo because we’re leading from behind. But the reason we are being so cautious is because when you look at the possible ramifications, it’s mindboggling.”
A power vacuum in the country, loose weapons of mass destruction, a refugee crisis, and unrest across the region are just a few of the problems that could attend the collapse of the Assad regime, the official said.
“This isn’t Libya. What happens in Libya stays in Libya, but that is not going to happen in Syria. The stakes are higher,” the official said. “Right now, we see the risks of moving too fast as higher than the risks of moving too slow.”
The option of establishing a humanitarian corridor is seen as extremely unlikely because it would require establishing a no-fly zone over parts of Syria, which would likely involve large-scale attacks on the Syrian air defense and military command-and-control systems.
“That’s theoretically one of the options, but it’s so far out of the realm that no one is thinking about that seriously at the moment,” another administration official said.
Although the opposition is decidedly split on the issue, Burhan Ghalioun, the president of the Syrian National Council, earlier this month called on the international community to enforce a no-fly zone in Syria.
“Our main objective is finding mechanisms to protect civilians and stop the killing machine,” said Ghalioun. “We say it is imperative to use forceful measures to force the regime to respect human rights.”
Is the U.S. bark worse than its bite?
Rhetorically, the administration has been active in calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside and protecting the rights of Syrian protesters, despite the lack of clear policy to achieve that result. “The United States continues to believe that the only way to bring about the change that the Syrian people deserve is for Bashar al-Assad to leave power,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Dec. 21.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27, the administration hinted at stronger action if the Syrian government doesn’t let the Arab League monitors do their work. “If the Syrian regime continues to resist and disregard Arab League efforts, the international community will consider other means to protect Syrian civilians,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
The Syrian National Council (SNC), the primary organization representing the opposition, has been very clear that it is seeking more than rhetorical support from the United States and the international community. An extensive policy paper titled, “Safe Area for Syria,” edited by SNC member Ausama Monajed, laid out the argument for armed intervention by the international community to aid Syrian civilians.
“The Syrian National Council (SNC) is entering a critical phase in the Syrian revolution whereby the hope of a continued campaign of passive resistance to an exceptionally brutal and unrestrained regime is becoming more and more akin to a suicide pact,” Monajed wrote.
But Washington is uncomfortable acting in concert with the SNC: Officials say there is a lack of confidence that the SNC, which is strongly influenced by expatriate Syrians, has the full support of the internal opposition. U.S. officials are also wary of supporting the Syria Free Army, made up of Syrian military defectors and armed locals, as they do not want to be seen as becoming militarily engaged against the regime — a story line they fear that Assad could use for his own propaganda, officials said.
There is also some internal bureaucratic wrangling at play. This summer, when the issue of sending emergency medical equipment into Syria came up in a formal interagency meeting, disputes over jurisdiction stalled progress on the discussion, officials told The Cable. No medical aid was sent.
So for now, the administration is content to let the Arab League monitoring mission play out and await its Jan. 20 report. The officials said that the administration hopes to use the report to begin a new diplomatic initiative in late January at the U.N. Security Council to condemn Assad and authorize direct assistance to the opposition.
The officials acknowledged that this new initiative could fail due to Russian support for the Assad regime. If that occurs, the administration would work with its allies such as France and Turkey to establish their own justification for non-military humanitarian intervention in Syria, based on evidence from the Arab League report and other independent reporting on Assad’s human rights abuses. This process could take weeks, however, meaning that material assistance from the United States to the Syrian opposition probably wouldn’t flow at least until late February or early March. Between now and then, hundreds or even thousands more could be killed.
There is also disagreement within the administration about whether the Arab League observer mission is credible and objective.
“This is an Arab issue right now, and the Arab League is really showing initiative for the first time in a long time,” said one administration official.
“[The Arab League monitoring mission] is all Kabuki theatre,” said another administration official who does not work directly on Syria. “We’re intentionally setting the bar too high [for intervention] as means of maintaining the status quo, which is to do nothing.”
Andrew Tabler, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that the administration was caught off-guard by how the opposition became militarized so quickly. The administration’s message had been to urge the opposition to remain peaceful, but that ship has now sailed, he said.
“We have a pretty strong policy of not engaging the Syria Free Army directly, because earlier it was agreed that peaceful protesters had the moral high ground over the regime and were more able to encourage defections,” he said. “But there was no clear light at the end of that peaceful protest strategy. We assumed, incorrectly, that the civil resistance strategies used in Egypt and Tunisia were being adopted by the Syrian opposition, but that didn’t happen.”
Most experts in Washington have a deep skepticism toward the Arab League monitoring mission. For one thing, it is led by a Sudanese general who has been accused of founding the Arab militias that wreaked havoc in Darfur. Also, many doubt that 150 monitors that will eventually be in Syria can cover the vast number of protests and monitor such a large country.
The Assad regime has also been accused of subverting the monitoring mission by moving political prisoners to military sites that are off-limits to monitors, repositioning tanks away from cities only when monitors are present, and having soldiers pose as police to downplay the military’s role in cracking down on the protesters.
“It seems awfully risky for the U.S. to be putting its chips all in on that mission,” said Tony Badran, a research fellow with the conservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “There never was a serious mechanism for it to be a strong initiative.”
Badran said that the Arab League monitoring mission just gives the Assad regime time and space to maneuver, and provides Russia with another excuse to delay international action on Syria.
“Now you understand why the Russians pushed the Syrians to accept the monitors,” he said. “It allows the Syrians to delay the emergence of consensus.”
Brian Katulis, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said the administration is trying to balance the value of protecting civilians with the interests of trying to ensure a measure of stability in Syria.
“The biggest thing is extensive consultation with as many international allies as possible. That’s another feature of this administration,” said Katulis. “And when change does come to Syria, the Syrians have to own it.”
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor did not respond to requests for comment.
- The US must ratchet up pressure on Syria | Matthew Brodsky (guardian.co.uk)
- Activists: Syrian troops kill 9 despite monitors (goerie.com)
- Arab League monitors head to Syrian opposition stronghold – CNN (edition.cnn.com)
- US: Assad’s Syria a ‘dead man walking’ (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- White House warning: Assad must end crackdown or face ‘additional steps’ (jta.org)
- Syria frees 755 prisoners as observers tour Homs (theglobeandmail.com)
- Protest could be turning point in Syrian unrest (smh.com.au)