Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It's Happening

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tries, without much success, to round up a new Gang of 14 to forge a bipartisan consensus of health-care reform in the Senate, Democrats who are now proving deaf to the calls of bipartisan cooperation might pay attention to these rumblings from Harry Reid:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged on Wednesday to take a serious look at revising the filibuster rules at the beginning of the next Congress, calling the current level of obstruction in the Senate unacceptable.

In a reflection of the party's commitment to changing the parliamentary rules, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) followed the majority leader by saying that his committee would address the topic soon.

"The rules committee is going to start holding hearings on how to undo the filibuster rule," said Schumer, who chairs the Senate Rules Committee. The New York Democrat told the Huffington Post after the speech that the hearings would take place two or three weeks from now.

Pledges are only words, and "serious looks" in Washington are often anything but serious. But this story does indicate the increasing interest in "reforming"/doing away with the filibuster for the Democratic leadership in the Senate.

Furthermore, the attempt to bypass the filibuster using reconciliation may be a tactic that leadership is just getting started with, as Senate leaders weigh passing other measures via reconciliation.

The loss of the filibuster would likely be a significant blow to the power of moderates on both sides of the aisle. As many "progressives" have noted (often with deep disappointment in their voices), the demands of folks like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu would not be taken nearly as seriously if Democrats did not need at least 60 votes to pass health-care reform. The filibuster also encourages members of one party to work across the aisle with members of another party in order to pass legislation. This fact also usually ends up helping Senate moderates, often giving them a hand in legislation even when they're in the minority.

Is it really in the long-term interest of the US Senate and the United States to make senators mere bobbleheads for leadership, nodding whenever the leader says "yes"? Harry Reid might not, according to many polls, be long for the Senate, but moderate senators ought to consider the long-term implications of the path that leadership is on.

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