Malo periculosam, libertatem quam quietam servitutem.



November 2012

Harry Reid's Dishonest Filibuster Reform Argument

Written by , Posted in Waste & Government Reform

I try on this blog to criticize the ideas and policies of my adversaries, instead of the people themselves. I don’t always succeed, but that is one of my goals. But for Harry Reid I make an exception and don’t even try. He continues to demonstrate that he is one of the most loathsome people in the DC cesspool, and cares about nothing other than the accumulation of his own power. He runs the Senate like a dictatorship, abusing his authority in ways that do direct harm to political process and the American people. He is a cancer desperately in need of removal from the body politic.

His latest assault on good government is taking place as a crusade against the filibuster. He claims that the problem is his adversaries, who are abusing it to block his agenda. As usual he has twisted reality on its head, as it is Harry Reid who has long abused Senate rules to prevent votes on issues he considers politically dangerous to himself or his party, and who is seeking to solidify his ability to do so going forward. Mark Calabria of Cato explains:

First, let’s remember that the objective of every majority leader is to stay majority leader. To do so means members of his party must win re-election. One of the important ways a majority leader can facilitate such is to protect his members from tough votes. For instance, witness Reid’s current attempts to stop a vote on Rand Paul’s (R-KY) amendment to limit indefinite detention. You’d think that since many liberal voters and groups oppose indefinite detention, Reid would welcome such a vote. But such a vote would put Democrats and President Obama at odds. So Reid’s favored course of action is to avoid such a vote.

How does this relate to the filibuster? Well after cloture is invoked (see Senate Rule XXII), the only amendments that can be voted on are those that are both pending and germane. And an amendment only gets pending if there’s no objection. All Reid needs to do is oppose amendments for 30 hours, then the curtain comes down and he can force a vote, and this assumes he hasn’t already filled the amendment tree (I’ve witnessed such a process too many times to count). So when Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) claims, “[w]e’ve had over 300 filibusters in the last six years,” he fails to mention that few of these were actual filibusters. The vast majority were attempts by the Majority to limit amendments by pre-emptively filing cloture.

He goes on to look at the ratio of roll call votes to measures passed as a proxy for how frequently a Majority Leader uses this obstructionist practice, and lo-and-behold, Harry Reid is worse than the average. Harry Reid does not want filibuster reform to enhance the workers of the Senate, he wants filibuster reform to enhance his iron grip on the legislative agenda and further constrain the ability of anyone not named Harry Reid to have a say.