Fmr Sen. Ben Nelson: McConnell Has ‘Way Too Much Power,’ He’s Killing the Senate

Former Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day” that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has too much power, which is putting the Senate on “life support.”

Discussing the Senate, host John Berman said, “The inability to come together and work. Whose fault is that?”

Nelson said, “Well, it’s easy to say it’s the system’s fault, but it isn’t necessarily the system’s fault. People want to blame the filibuster as being the reason. That’s not the case. The Senate has worked in the past with the filibuster. So that isn’t the answer. I think what’s happened, I think the leaders of the caucuses, the Democratic leader, and/or, in this case, the Republican leader can have too much power seeded to it, and in particular, the leadership on the Republican side, Mitch McConnell.”

He continued, “Nobody back home necessarily voted for somebody to be leader. So you have to be careful that you don’t seed too much power to the leader and that the leader doesn’t become autocratic and threaten you to take away your leadership positions or your committee assignments. So the leadership has way too much power.”

He added, “The leaders are there to make sure that the trains run on time and that the business of the Senate is accomplished, not to obstruct and assert at the very beginning of a presidential term that your number one goal is to make sure that that president doesn’t get reelected. That’s the problem, I think, we have in the Senate today.”

Nelson concluded, “I think that there’s too much intimidation now with a leader on the Republican side who says, you do it for me, do it as a favor. I don’t understand the power that the leadership has today. It certainly didn’t have it back then with a gang of 14 on judicial nominations, getting up-or-down votes. Seven Democrats, seven Republicans, took the ball and decided we were going to get judicial nominees, up or down votes and that not everything was going to be filibustered or have to go to cloture, as they say. So it’s possible for maybe to take the ball away from the leaders just a bit and work on your own to bring about bipartisan solutions. I don’t think it’s dead. I think it’s on life support. But I think the Senate is going to die if they eliminate the filibuster and turn it into a raucous group, like the House.”

Follow Pam Key on Twitter @pamkeyNEN

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