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Harry Reid: Bring on the filibuster reform!

By Doug Powers  •  November 7, 2012 02:19 PM

**Written by Doug Powers

In July, Harry Reid promised to pursue filibuster reform if, after the election, the Democrats still maintained a simple majority in the Senate and Obama remained president. Well, those things came to pass, and Reid hasn’t forgotten:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that he will try to push through a change to Senate rules that would limit the GOP’s ability to filibuster bills.

Speaking in the wake of Tuesday’s election, which boosted Senate Democrats’ numbers slightly, Mr. Reid said he won’t end filibusters altogether but that the rules need to change so that the minority party cannot use the legislative blocking tool as often.

“I think that the rules have been abused and that we’re going to work to change them,” he told reporters. “Were not going to do away with the filibuster but we’re going to make the Senate a more meaningful place.”

Republicans, who have 47 of the chamber’s 100 seats in this current Congress, have repeatedly used that strong minority to block parts of President Obama’s agenda on everything from added stimulus spending to his judicial picks.

A filibuster takes 60 senators to overcome it.

Make the Senate a more meaningful place? Bring on the pomegranate trees and cowboy poetry.

In 2005, Reid took a completely different tone about filibusters in this floor speech:

A conversation between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington describes the United States Senate and our Founders Fathers vision of it.

Jefferson asked Washington what is the purpose of the Senate?

Washington responded with a question of his own, “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” “To cool it,” Jefferson replied. To which Washington said; “Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

And this is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail.

It also separates us from the House of Representatives – where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government… Separation of Powers… Checks and Balances.

Mr. President, the filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check. This central fact has been acknowledged and even praised by Senators from both parties.
For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some “procedural gimmick.” It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They established a government so that no one person – and no single party – could have total control.

Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power.

They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.

I doubt that’s true.

Times change… as do majorities. That speech was of course delivered when the Republicans controlled the chamber — back when the Senate filibuster was of Jeffersonian importance.

**Written by Doug Powers

Twitter @ThePowersThatBe

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