A clash erupted on the Senate floor Monday between Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, but it wasn’t over a budget deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Rather, this rhetorical dust-up was over a proposed move on the part of Reid to change the Senate filibuster rule.
The filibuster is an admittedly frustrating Senate tradition of blocking bills and nominations with unlimited debate. Under the current rules, a filibuster can only be ended by a vote of three-fifths of all senators (60 senators). Reid doesn’t want to do away with the filibuster (it’s a valuable tool against in-power political foes) “just that we do away with filibusters on motions to proceed,” the procedural step that precedes a final debate on a bill or a nomination, reports NBC News.
“We have huge issues before us here at the end of the year, much of which will probably carry over into next year,” McConnell said to Reid in a heated debate. “It’s a time that we ought to building collegiality and relationships and not making incendiary moves that are damaging to the institution and could have serious ramifications on our ability to work together here at the end of the year.”
Reid said that his proposed change is “minor” and a simple attempt to make the Senate “more efficient.” McConnell countered this assertion: “This is no small matter, this is a big issue about the future of this country and how this institution ought to be operated,” he said.
McConnell accused Reid of a ploy to “break the rules of the Senate in order to change the rules of the Senate,” adding that under current Senate rules, 67 senators are required to enact a rule change.
McConnell also criticized Reid of using his influence in the Senate to block proposed Republican amendments to bills on the floor, which many Republicans have criticized him of doing. They use this justification in defense of their own filibustering of Democratic proposals, which many see as the reason Congress has failed to act on the fiscal cliff and other policies. “He alone, out of 100 of us, gets to decide who gets to offer an amendment,” McConnell complained. “In other words he gets to pick our amendments for us.”
According to McConnell, this is why Republicans have slowed or blocked debate with filibusters of their own.
Reid replied that “to the average American, these reforms are just common sense… America believes Congress is broken. Once again the only ones who disagree are Mitch McConnell and Republicans in Congress.”
He added later, “As I’ve traveled this country, people said, ‘Do something to change the Senate so we can get things done.’”
Do you think that Harry Reid is pulling a fast one in the Senate and making a move to undermine bipartisanship, or is filibuster reform something Congress desperately needs? Furthermore, isn’t the time for one-upmanship past? Shouldn’t these guys be talking about the fiscal cliff and passing a budget for the first time in three years? Sound off!