On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid continued preparations to alter Senate rules and strip Senators of their ability to filibuster Presidential nominations. In an unusual step, all Senators are scheduled to convene this evening in the Old Senate Chamber to debate the changes. This means the debate will take place away from C-SPAN cameras and out of the publics’ view.
Ironically, the last time the Senate met in a closed meeting in the Old Senate Chamber was in early January 2007, soon after the Democrats won control of the chamber, but before they formally took power. The purpose of the meeting with to set a “more pleasant tone” to Senate deliberations. Given Monday’s agenda, it is clear those efforts failed.
Reid’s plan is to change the Senate rules to permanently block nominations being subject to a filibuster. The practical effect is that all future Presidential nominations would be subject to a simple majority vote. Reid has stated he needs just 51 votes to make the rule change.
More ironic than the setting for Monday’s debate is the fact that Reid himself strenuously argued against this exact plan when the GOP, who controlled the Senate at the time, considered it in 2005.
“For people to suggest that you can break the rules to change the rules is un-American,” Reid argued on the Senate floor in April 2005. “The only way you can change the rule in this body is through a rule that now says, to change a rule in the Senate rules to break a filibuster still requires 67 votes. You can’t do it with 60. You certainly cannot do it with 51. But now we are told the majority is going to do the so-called nuclear option.
“We will come in here, having the Vice President seated where my friend and colleague from Nevada is seated. The Parliamentarian would acknowledge it is illegal, it is wrong, you can’t do it, and they would overrule it. It would simply be: We are going to do it because we have more votes than you. You would be breaking the rules to change the rules. That is very un-American.”
Now that Reid currently has more votes than the Republicans, his view of the matter has apparently changed. No wonder he wants the debate away from the cameras.