Friday, October 7, 2011


We told you and told you. But noooooooo .... you, you in the GOP leadership, you never listen.  Notions of "civility," "comity" and "tradition" with the national Democrat leadership are only means to an end.  Their end.  Republicans may offer and try to respect such notions, but such acts are only very rarely reciprocated. 

The latest example:
In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.
Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.
The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation. 
The Democratic leader had become fed up with Republican demands for votes on motions to suspend the rules after the Senate had voted to limit debate earlier in the day.
McConnell had threatened such a motion to force a vote on the original version of President Obama’s jobs package, which many Democrats don’t like because it would limit tax deductions for families earning over $250,000. The jobs package would have been considered as an amendment.
McConnell wanted to embarrass the president by demonstrating how few Democrats are willing to support his jobs plan as first drafted. (Senate Democrats have since rewritten the jobs package to pay for its stimulus provisions with a 5.6 surtax on income over $1 million.)
Reid’s move strips the minority of the power of forcing politically-charged procedural votes after the Senate has voted to cut off a potential filibuster and move to a final vote, which the Senate did on the China measure Tuesday morning, 62-38.
Note the irony of my position: I actually support the Democrats on the issue of China currency.  That is, I support them substantively, but not procedurally.  It's like ObamaCare.  Whatever the merits of ObamaCare are -- and there are some good points to it and Obama should be given credit for trying to do something about our twisted health care system -- the dishonest way in which it was rammed through Congress is despicable and offensive to the notion of representative government.  But I digress ...

Why am I so angry about this boring, procedural issue?

Reid said motions to suspend the rules after the Senate votes to end debate — motions which do not need unanimous consent — are tantamount to a renewed filibuster after a cloture vote.

“The Republican Senators have filed nine motions to suspend the rules to consider further amendments but the same logic that allows for nine such motions could lead to the consideration of 99 such amendments,” Reid argued before springing his move.

Reid said Republicans could force an “endless vote-a-rama” after the Senate has voted to move to final passage.

He said this contradicts the rule the Senate adopted 32 years ago.

“This potential for filibuster by amendment is exactly the circumstance that the Senate sought to end by its 1979 amendments,” Reid said.

Reid appealed a ruling from the chair that McConnell did not need unanimous consent to force a vote on his motion.

The chair, which was occupied by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), ruled according to the advice of the Senate parliamentarian that Republicans had the right to force a vote on suspending the rules and proceeding to President Obama’s controversial jobs bill.

A Senate GOP source disputed Reid’s argument, however. This source argued that the debate time after the Senate has voted to cut off a potential filibuster is limited to 30 hours.

The GOP source said that Republicans might be able to force votes on 30 amendments during that time but argued it would be impossible to force 99 votes, as Reid suggested.

A Democratic parliamentary expert rejected this Republican argument as based on false information. The Democratic source said motions to suspend the rules after the Senate has voted to cut off debate would waive time limits and germaneness requirements.

Republicans had considered using Reid’s maneuver, dubbed the “nuclear option,” in 2005 to change Senate rules to prohibit the filibuster of judicial nominees. Democrats decried the plan under consideration by then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) as a bomb that would decimate Senate traditions.

That crisis was resolved by a bipartisan agreement forged by 14 rank-and-file senators known as the Gang of 14.
As Glenn Reynolds points out, "When Republicans were in the majority, this was viewed as dangerous and unamerican."  And the Gang of 14 bought into it.  Nice goin'.  In the name of "civility," "comity" and "tradition," the Gang of 14 effectively killed several of Bush's judicial nominations, including that of Miguel Estrada, which helped keep conservative jurists off the federal bench just in time for Obama to fill them with left-wing ideologues. 

The Republicans in the Gang of 14 seemed to think their act of "civility," "comity" and "tradition" would actually be reciprocated. 

And they wonder why most people think the Republican leadeship in Washington is full of idiots.

Politico, not exactly a bastion of conservatism, has more:
McConnell sought to waive the rules so they could consider the president’s jobs bill — ensuring that there would be no vote on the merits of Obama’s plan — along with six other amendments. But Democrats refused to consider one amendment in particular - a plan by Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns that he says would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating farm dust. The EPA has said its efforts to crack down on soot pollution would not affect farm dust.
Yeah, like the EPA has a reputation for being honest.
“He wants to run the Senate like he’s king, but he’s not,” an angry Johanns told POLITICO. “No one elected him king.”

McConnell said Reid should not be allowed to pick-and-choose which GOP amendments could be considered, and insisted that the Johanns plan be part of the mix. Faced with a stalemate, Reid called for a vote asking the Senate to ensure that post-cloture motions to suspend the rules are considered out of order - a move that had been quietly debated in Reid’s office since Thursday morning. All Democrats, except for Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted to make the change.

“I didn’t want to change the rules without debate or understanding what it is,” said Nelson, who had conferred with Reid on the floor. “Potentially this would change the rules forever”

The 51-48 vote was not decided until the final minutes as Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) switched to back Reid and then Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) immediately followed suit after animated conversations with Reid.
To an outside observer, it appeared that the votes were tied together, and once Pryor had switched, that this made it easier for McCaskill who was not the decisive vote. But Pryor told POLITICO that he was unmindful of the drama surrounding McCaskill and made his decision independently after consulting with the parliamentarians and his friend, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) about the precedent involved.

“I decided that if it is is a precedent, it is a good precedent against dilatory tactics,” Pryor said. “This would hopefully be a precedent to not open the bills up after cloture for more and more amendments.”
Reid and other Democratic leaders even scrapped a planned meeting at the White House Thursday evening to carry out the fight.

Senators are often very hesitant to change the rules of the body, fearing that it could create a dangerous precedent in the event that they are in the minority. Numerous efforts to change filibuster rules over the years have stalled, including a famous incident in 2005 when then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) failed to invoke the “nuclear option” to limit Democratic filibusters against President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.
To be fair, Philip Klein disagrees with me, and, apparently, the Hill and Politico articles:
Though it's been the standing practice of the Senate to allow such motions by the minority, tonight Reid broke with precedent and ruled McConnell's motion out of order, and was ultimately backed up by Democrats.

So, the end result is that by a simple majority vote, Reid was able to effectively rewrite Senate rules making it even harder than it already is for the minority party to force votes on any amendments. Should Republicans retake the Senate next year, it's something that could come back to haunt Democrats in a major way.

And just to clear up some confusion, what happened tonight was different than the so-called "nuclear option" to end filibusters. While triggering the "nuclear option" requires a Majority Leader to use the same sort of strategic maneuvers as Reid just did, tonight's move had to do with the amendment process, not filibusters.
Michelle Malkin has a roundup of the GOP reactions:
Senate Republicans gave play-by-play of the mud fight on the floor.

Sen. DeMint tweeted: “Reid & Dems just pulled the ‘nuclear option’ to stop minority from offering amendments.”

Sen. Cornyn had one word: “Tyranny.”
They have only themselves to blame.

Oh, where to start? Hot Air:

Begich’s ruling that the GOP’s amendments should be allowed was subsequently voted down, 48/51 (Ben Nelson was the only crossover), which means going forward Republicans have no right to offer amendments after cloture on a bill is invoked. (The filibuster, which is aimed at blocking the majority from invoking cloture in the first place, is unaffected by Reid’s move.) Still confused? Read Philip Klein, who has a quick, plain-English translation of what it all means. Post-cloture amendments are a cheap and easy way for the minority party to force the majority to vote on proposals that might somehow embarrass them. The embarrassing proposal in this case was … Obama’s jobs bill, which Democrats still don’t uniformly support. Apparently, to spare The One the humiliation of having members of his own party vote no on the PassThisBillRightAway Act of 2011, Reid freaked out and nuked the GOP’s right to offer amendments entirely. That’s how much of a fiasco O’s jobs plan is right now: Simply to avoid having to vote on it, longstanding Senate rules are being rewritten on the fly by … his own party.
YID with LID:
Harry Reid invented a new Senate rule tonight, its called "Because I said so!" 

Minority leader Mitch McConnell only wanted to do what the President asked, force a speedy vote on Obama's Jobs bill. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a member of the President's party would not allow it to happen and he created a new Senate rule to make it happen. Because he didn't have enough votes for its passage, Reid delayed Senate action on Obama's bill, Instead he scheduled debate and vote on a bill focusing on China's currency manipulation.

The President however, has been ostracizing the Republicans for not passing his class warfare jobs bill even though he cannot get it through the branch of Congress his own party controls. In answer to the President's demands for a vote, Minority McConnell made a "motion to suspend the rules," to allow a vote on the amendments to the China currency bill,one of which was the Jobs bill. These motions require a two-thirds vote so they are almost always defeated. But the vote would have established for the the Country what was really going on, Obama's charges about a GOP delay were nothing but a cynical political move made by a president who cares much more about his failing re-election effort than our failing economy.

Here's where it gets interesting, the Senate has always allowed motions to suspend to be offered (and voted down). In this case however, trying to protect his president, rather than provide transparency to voters Reid broke with precedent and ruled McConnell's motion out of order.

The Senate parliamentarian admitted the move was unprecedented, but of course the the Democratic chair, ruled in favor of Reid. McConnell appealed the ruling, but by a vote of 51 to 48 the majority Democratic party decided,  rather than to allow the vote, which would indicate to the public that they too rejected Obama's bill, to hide from the voters what was actually going on behind the scenes and to allow the President to continue to unfairly single out the GOP.

In one stroke Harry Reid was able to rewrite Senate rules making it even harder than it already is for the minority party to force votes on any amendments, or even discuss them.  This is the Senate, Constitutionally designed to be a deliberative body, but in one fell swoop Harry Reid said no, because he said so.  Should Republicans retake the Senate next year, it's something that could come back to haunt Democrats in a major way.
No, it won't.

Because, like Charlie Brown with Lucy and the football, the Republicans never learn.

You can offer "civility," "comity" and "tradition" -- as an excuse for caving, if nothing else -- but it will rarely, if ever, be reciprocated.

No comments:

Post a Comment