Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned that the plan considered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to change Senate rules in order to weaken the minority is “a mortal threat that’s been quietly gathering against one of the most cherished safeguards of our government.”
Reid wants to weaken the Republican senators’ ability to filibuster legislation. But since he can’t get Republicans to vote for a rule change that would empower him at their expense, he may decide to change the filibuster rules with a 51-vote majority, despite a rule requiring that rule changes need the support of 67 senators to pass.
“What’s being proposed now would undermine the very purpose of the Senate as the one place in our system where minority views and opinions have always been respected and heard, and, in most cases, incorporated into law,” McConnell said on the Senate floor today.
McConnell a reminded the Senate that Reid has taken to writing all bills in the manner that he wrote the health care law; the rule change would strengthen his ability to do so, according to the Republican leader.
“[Reid has] preferred to write legislation in the confines of his conference room, rather than in the public eye, as he did most famously with the drafting of Obamacare,” McConnell said.“And I say to everyone: if you want more legislation around here crafted the way that bill was crafted, you’ll support what the Majority Leader is proposing now. Because that’s where this is headed: more authoritarianism, more secrecy, and even less input from rank and file members on both sides of the aisle.”
Reid blames Republicans for blocking too many bills. “They have made it an almost impossible task to get things done,” he told Politico. Republicans filibuster Democratic bills because Reid won’t allow them to offer amendments. That is, if Republicans let Reid bring a bill to a vote, then the Democrats could pass their ideal legislation, rather than having to compromise with Republicans before passing the bill.
In any case, McConnell noted that Reid’s rule change is a dramatic departure from his past promises. “The Senate was not established to be efficient,” Reid said in a 2006 speech that McConnell quoted. “The need to muster 60 votes in order to terminate Senate debate naturally frustrates the majority and oftentimes the minority. I am sure it will frustrate me when I assume the office of majority leader in a few weeks, but I recognize this requirement is a tool that serves the long-term interest of the Senate and the American people and our country.”