Reid apologizes, says Merkley was right

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

This is a pretty stunning admission by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the majority leader and most powerful member of the Senate:

If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight. These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. And they were right. The rest of us were wrong -- or most of us, anyway. What a shame...

Mr. President, I am finished here, but I just want to say again, for those that are listening here or watching, Senator Udall and Senator Merkley want to do something to change the rules regarding filibuster. If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rule, because it’s been abused, abused, and abused.

This happened late last week, on a relatively minor bill - one reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank. But that just goes to show how ridiculous the filibuster has become. It used to be used for matters of great national import and controversy, a rare tool used when all other parliamentary options were exhausted.

Now? It's just a routine way of doing business. In fact, this was the 84th time in this Congress that cloture has been filed in an attempt to end a filibuster.

The story goes that George Washington told Thomas Jefferson that the Senate is the saucer where the hot tea of the House goes to cool. It's more like a freezer now, where the flow of democracy hardens and turns solid and immobile.

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein says that we're now "only one Senate crisis away from one party or the other actually following through on [filibuster reform]."

If only Democrats had done it back when Jeff Merkley proposed it in January 2011. That said, even if the Republicans take control of the Senate, I hope that Senator Reid continues to support filibuster reform. Elections have to matter for democracy to work.

There's more from Politico, CBS News, New York magazine, Care2, Salon, and Think Progress.

Comments

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    Full disclosure: My firm built Jeff Merkley's campaign website. I speak only for myself.

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    If Reid really means it, they will do the constitutional option now, and not wait.

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      I'm not sure they can.

      If I remember right, the constitutional option had to be executed at the moment before the rules were voted into place at the beginning of the session.

      I'm no Senate procedure wonk however, so it's entirely plausible that I'm wrong.

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    Also referenced in the NYTimes today, in an article about how the Tea Party is trying to take over the Senate. Sen Merkley is terrific!

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    As I recall the "constitutional option" can be done at any time on any issue. That was the threat when GWB was trying to get an up or down vote on Alito and the Rs were threatening the "nucular" option. The "gang of 15" put together an agreement for "common ground".

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    I'm pretty sure it was frequently called the nuclear option: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_option

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      It was also called the "constitutional option". I was making fun of some Rs and their pronunciation of nuclear. In any event the Senate can call a "point of order" and change the rules on a 50 plus one vote on any single issue. I believe what Kari was referring to is at the beginning of a session the majority can change the rules on an ongoing basis.

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    Great. It's likely that we'll lose the Senate in November. So now Harry thinks we should do away with the filibuster.

    It was obvious in February 2009 that the Republicans were going to use the 60 vote threshold for everything that was meaningful. I don't for a second believe Reid didn't know it.

    So now, 3 1/2 years into Obama's term, he suddenly realizes the Republicans aren't playing nice. He's a fraud. Either that or, if he's sincere, dumb, really dumb. Either way he comes off badly.

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    OK, I think I'm remembering this now. Merkley wasn't proposing the nuclear/constitutional option.

    Rather, he was proposing a change to the Senate rules as part of the regular order of business. At the start of the session, before the Senate is organized and the rules implemented, the filibuster doesn't exist. Thus, the rules could be changed with a majority vote.

    But right now, after the Senate is organized, a proposal to change the filibuster rule could itself be filibustered.

    Unless the nuclear/constitutional option is used.

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    And by the way, Senator Merkley put together his reform proposal in a very concise, very easy-to-read seven-page document. I suggest reading it.

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    The reauthorization of the Ex-Im bank is actually a vitally important resource to small businesses in the US. It allows small US businesses that manufacture goods in the US to have the credit backing to be able to sell US goods overseas. It's insane that the Senators that campaigned on being pro-business candidates are now using parliamentary proceedures to shut down one of the more important tools for small businesses involved in international trade because on the premise that all govt intervention is bad. Also, Sen. Jeff Merkley rocks!

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