Last week, Sen. Harry Reid had an opportunity for real filibuster reform.
With the beginning of each new Congress, the Senate can determine its rules by a simple majority vote. Given the opportunity, many Democrats wanted to return to a voice filibuster like that of the past. In other words, the minority would still be able to filibuster. But they would no longer be able to do it anonymously, and they would have to continue debate on the Senate floor until they were exhausted or collected the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the measure.
Unfortunately, Reid chose to negotiate with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, winning a few very minor concessions.
It was an opportunity lost.
During the last three Democrat-controlled sessions, Teapublicans set an all-time record with more than 400 filibusters. They filibustered everything from President Obama’s cabinet nominations and judicial appointments to the repeal of Big Oil subsidies and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Now, as a result of Reid’s timidity, the obstructionist Teapublican minority can continue to block legislation by requiring a super-majority of 60 votes to allow debate on virtually any measure.
As Senator Tom Harkin warned prior to Reid’s failure, without filibuster reform it will be virtually impossible for President Obama to carry out his vision for his second term. He noted that the compromise will allow Senators to literally phone it in. “It still will provide a system where people can filibuster and they don’t even have to come here,” said Harkin. As a result, he said, President Obama “might as well take a 4-year vacation.”