No unemployment benefits for millionaires? You would think a proposal to cut them off wouldn’t generate much opposition, particularly from Senate Democrats – but you would be wrong.
Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania figured out how to get a little payback from Senate Majority Leader “Dingy” Harry Reid Wednesday for the czar-like way he runs the Senate. Introduce what are known as “third degree” amendments to must-pass legislation being debated, and when they are ruled out-of-order, appeal the ruling and call for a roll call vote, effectively tying the place up, delaying what is going on, and forcing vulnerable Democrats to cast votes that may hurt them in the next election.
I spoke with Toomey early Wednesday morning, who reminded me that Reid has turned the Senate into a banana-Republic-like institution, changing the rules so he can jam anything through and prevent any Republican from offering any amendment on anything, and pretty much shutting down the entire committee structure. Old Lyndon Johnson ruled the Senate on his terms back in the 1950s, but compared to Harry Reid, LBJ was a first-class piker.
It is important to remember what Reid is up to.He knows that his leadership spot is in jeopardy in the November elections. Enough vulnerable Democrats are in difficult races that Republicans could take control of the Senate, making Obama a two-year lame duck and rendering Reid just a useless minority leader. So by prohibiting Republicans to force votes on unpopular matters that Democrats have to vote for, he just might be able to help those Democrats in their difficult elections. Toomey, however, may have figured out a way around Reid’s scheme.
So for the first time in months, Republicans went on the offensive. Toomey offered an amendment Wednesday to the bill now being debated to extend unemployment benefits that prohibits such benefits going to people making over $1 million a year – not exactly controversial. As expected, the amendment was ruled out of order, since Reid doesn’t allow Republican amendments.
However, surprise to Reid, Toomey appealed that order, which under the arcane Senate rules he is allowed to do. So what did Democrats do? At Reid’s demand, they started filibustering the appeal, which prohibited a vote in order to preserve Reid’s prohibition against Republican amendments.
The significance of what Toomey did was to demonstrate that no one senator may block amendments in the Senate like the Rules Committee does in the House. If senators can do it once, they can do it again, and again and again, forcing votes on amendments to must-pass legislation, in the process essentially ending the majority leader’s ability to block Republican amendments.
Sorry, Harry, but in Washington, what goes around comes around.