November 26, 2013
The Senate approved a rule change last week which allows a simple majority of 51 votes to end debate and force a vote on executive branch and judicial nominations. The new rule, rammed through by liberals, will effectively end the use of the filibuster.
In effect, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who leads a 55 member Democratic caucus, will no longer need to work with conservatives to confirm judges or executive branch nominees.
It’s a short-sighted alternative to Senate deliberation, says Heritage Foundation legal analyst Elizabeth Slattery:
Though the rule purportedly applies only to executive branch and judicial nominations excluding Supreme Court nominations (for now, anyway) it would seem with 51 votes, [Senate Majority Leader] Reid can do just about anything. This change will certainly have a negative effect on whatever comity is left in the Senate’s, which used to be referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
President Obama strongly supported the new rule last week as a step in the right direction to “change the way that Washington is doing business,” despite his forceful opposition as a Senator to a similar rule change proposed by the then-majority Republicans in 2005.
In fact, Heritage’s Amy Payne writes in the Morning Bell, he’s invoked the American Founders in defense of both positions.
But the Founders came down on just one side of the argument. Slattery explains:
The Framers of the Constitution envisioned the Senate as a deliberative body. According to James Madison, while the House is governed by majoritarian whims, the Senate would “consist in its proceedings with more coolness, with more system and with more wisdom.” George Washington famously commented “we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”
The Senate, as the deliberative body intended by the American Founders, requires a cooperative and measured process. Senate leadership must respect the rights of all senators—and the American people they represent—to stand against measures they oppose.
What do you think of Harry Reid’s use of the “nuclear option”?