Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is plotting to do away with the filibuster in an effort to silence the minority. This is something he and the members of his party were against when they were in the minority, but now that they control the Senate they think it’s a fine idea.
Reid has already effectively shut down the opportunity for minority Senators to offer amendments to bills. Now he is angling to change the Senate’s rules so that minority members cannot filibuster a bill.
The way the Senate is set up, every Senator has the ability to debate legislation. But as Heritage senior legal fellow Hans von Spakovsky notes, “If members lose these abilities, the majority party will have the unchecked capability to shut off debate and pass legislation without opposition.”
The filibuster—famously depicted in the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington—actually doesn’t happen that often. As Senator Jim DeMint wrote for Heritage in November, “The last person to engage in a genuine filibuster was the ultraliberal Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. In 2010, He spoke on the Senate floor for eight hours straight in an attempt to defeat legislation to extend tax rates.”
In recent years, Republicans have not filibustered legislation, despite Reid’s current crusade. DeMint notes that “filibusters have not prevented the Democrat-led Senate from passing a budget over the past three years, preventing the so-called ‘fiscal cliff,’ or taking steps to reduce our $16 trillion and rising debt. Harry Reid has.” (Read More)
So if the filibuster wouldn’t stop Reid and the Democrats from doing anything they want (it didn’t stop them from ramming through Obamacare) why would Reid want to do this?
The most dramatic impact of the Reid Plan will be with regard to the Supreme Court, where the House of Representatives plays no constitutional role. President Obama will likely fill between one and three Supreme Court vacancies in the next four years, and he will be under enormous pressure from his base to nominate doctrinaire liberals who will reverse the decision upholding the partial-birth abortion ban, weaken personal liberties protected in the Bill of Rights, and eliminate the modest limitations on congressional power that the Rehnquist and Roberts courts have restored.
Senate conservatives will strongly oppose such a nominee. Conservatives already used their rights to extend debate to effectively block lower-court nominees such as “living Constitution” advocate Goodwin Liu and the highly controversial Caitlin Halligan. Each will be on the president’s shortlist for the Supreme Court. Yet if the Reid Plan is in effect, senators will be powerless to prevent the appointment of Liu, Halligan or similar judicial activists, because the 60-vote threshold will be gone and Obama’s party will just fall in line behind his choice.
The future of the Supreme Court isn’t the only thing at stake. While it’s unlikely that liberals will gain control of the House any time soon, it is not out of the question that Obama could command a unified, one-party government in his last two years. Under Reid’s new rules, the president could pass any legislation he wanted without negotiating with conservatives and taking their views into account. That means higher taxes, more spending, bigger government and no chance of entitlement reform. (Read More)
It’s going to be a long four years. With any luck we can defeat enough Democrat senators in 2014 to flip control of the Senate and give the Dems a taste of their own bitter medicine.