Tuesday, January 4, 2011

McConnell: GOP Showed Restraint in '95

Mitch McConnell has an op-ed in tomorrow's Washington Post bringing up a few facts about filibuster "reform." The first is that the Senate GOP decided to keep the filibuster even when it gained power in January 1995:
Just two months after securing a congressional majority for the first time in 40 years, Republicans strode into the Senate chamber on Jan. 5, 1995, to cast the first vote of the 104th Congress - a vote to limit their own power.

Sen. Tom Harkin had proposed changing Senate rules so that it would take only 51 votes to shut down debate instead of the traditional 60. Though it was clearly in the Republican majority's short-term interest to support the measure, every one of us voted against it, as did then-Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and senior members of the Democratic leadership in the Senate, including the majority leader and the president pro tempore.

The second is that Reid has done certain things to shut Republicans out of the process in the Senate:

What these critics [of the filibuster] routinely fail to mention (and too many reporters fail to report) is the precipitating action: the Democratic majority's repeated use of a once-rare procedural gimmick that has kept Republicans from amending bills that are brought to the floor. This practice, known as "filling the amendment tree," leads to a question that answers itself: Why would Republicans vote for action on a bill that, we've been promised, we'll be blocked from contributing to in any way? If the majority wants more cooperation, it could start by allowing differing views to be heard.

Over the past four years, Democrats have used such gimmicks to pursue their most prized legislative goals while attempting to minimize the number of uncomfortable votes they've had to take. My Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Harry Reid, has played quarterback, setting records for the number of times he has blocked Republicans from having any input on bills, cut off our right to debate and bypassed the committee process in order to write bills behind closed doors.

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