Finally, after Republican obstruction on bill after bill Senate Majority leader Harry Reid finally pushed back, invoking a procedural motion that could change the way the Senate operates for years to come.
That’s right. Sen. Reid went nuclear.
The move stunned Republicans who probably thought Reid didn’t have it in him to take drastic measures since, for the last year-and-a-half, Republicans have been able to use the filibuster to block votes on legislation that would pass on a simple majority (like the DREAM Act, for example).
The backdrop to this procedural drama is this: For several days Senate Republican leaders have tried to force a vote on the American Jobs Act knowing that Democrats have not yet whipped together enough votes for it to pass. Republicans wont vote for the bill anyways, so this is all about embarrassing Democrats.
To accomplish this, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) moved to add two GOP amendments to a bipartisan bill intended to punish China for manipulating its currency. One of those amendments was a version of the president’s jobs plan. In order to push that amendment (the jobs plan) through McConnell intended to file a motion to suspend the rules, which would require a supermajority and which would fail. Republicans could then run on the “fact” that the president’s jobs bill had failed.
But Reid plans to put a version of the bill up for vote this week and blocked Republicans’ efforts with the “nuclear option”– a procedural ruling from the parliamentarian that changes the minority’s ability to introduce amendments when a filibuster is defeated. Under the Reid rule change a simple majority of 51 votes can block the amended version of the AJA that McConnell was trying to push through the chamber.
Reid’s move abandons years of precedent and his a high risk move, especially should Democrats lose control of the Senate in 2012. But to Reid’s defense, Senate Republicans have manipulated Senate procedural rules to the point of no longer governing in good faith. And Reid said as much. Republicans don’t want to legislate, they want to campaign. All you have to do is look to the tens of thousands taking to American streets in protest to see the effect of those Republican efforts.
Photo from thw05 via flickr.