Monday, May 14, 2012

Reid Reverses Course, Favors Filibuster Reform

People say things that they don't mean all the time in politics, but this strikes me as different. For starters, how often do you hear any elected official say "I was wrong" about anything?
After an exasperated rant about Republican obstructionism, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday night that it's time to revamp the Senate's longstanding filibuster rule.

"If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it's the filibuster rule, because it's been abused, abused and abused," Reid said on the Senate floor.

Reid's call for changing the procedural rule, which requires 60 votes to end debate on a bill, came after Republicans refused to take up and pass an otherwise noncontroversial bill aimed at reauthorizing the Export-Import bank. Republican leaders said they wanted more time to offer amendments, which forced Reid to file a procedural motion delaying the vote to Monday. Sixty votes will be needed to end debate on the bill, and a simple majority will be required to pass it. The bill regularly clears both chambers with little fanfare and already passed the House unamended and with an overwhelming majority.

"I have been here in Congress 30 years, but this is a new one. Even bills that [Republicans] agree on, they want to mess around with. In years past, this would have gone through here just like this," Reid said, snapping his fingers. "The House passed something 330-93, and we're here playing around with it? It should be done. We should have passed it yesterday. This thing is going to expire."

The majority leader lamented that he didn't support a previous push by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to weaken the filibuster rule. Instead, Reidmade a "gentleman's agreement" in Jan. 2011 with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that they would preserve the rule.

"If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it's tonight," Reid said. "These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn't. They were right. The rest of us were wrong. Or most of us anyway. What a shame."
Frankly, that's a stunning admission. There are few things more important to fixing our democracy that eliminating the filibuster, and if this means Reid is serious about changing it, than major kudos.

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