August 23, 2019

Partisan Power Grab: Reid’s Call to Eliminate Filibuster

McConnell counters that the Senate’s job is not to rubber-stamp House bills.

Former Democrat and Senate Leader Harry Reid recently wrote an op-ed in New York Times wherein he called for the complete elimination of the Senate’s legislative filibuster. Reid argues that “the filibuster in all its forms” needs to be abolished because “the future of our country is sacrificed at the altar of the filibuster.” Recall that it was Reid who first ignited the so-called nuclear option back in 2013 when he eliminated the filibuster for presidential nominations. Republicans at the time warned that the move would come back to bite Democrats, which occurred in 2017 with current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominations.

However, rather than agree with Reid, McConnell contended in his own Times op-ed that the role of the Senate is not simply to “rubber-stamp House bills.” He writes, “On legislation, however, the Senate’s treasured tradition is not efficiency but deliberation. One of the body’s central purposes is making new laws earn broader support than what is required for a bare majority in the House. The legislative filibuster does not appear in the Constitution’s text, but it is central to the order the Constitution sets forth. It echoes James Madison’s explanation in Federalist 62 that the Senate is designed not to rubber-stamp House bills but to act as an ‘additional impediment’ and ‘complicated check’ on ‘improper acts of legislation.’ It embodies Thomas Jefferson’s principle that ‘great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.’”

McConnell also exposed the motive behind Reid’s call for the elimination of the legislative filibuster: “In this country, radical changes face a high bar by design. It is telling that today’s left-wing activists would rather lower that bar than produce ideas that can meet it.” Clearly Reid is more interested in pressing for greater power for the party in the majority (which he hopes will be Democrats after 2020) rather than concerns over what is in the best interest of the nation at large. McConnell’s argument serves as a cogent rebuke to Reid’s short-sighted partisan interests. The difficulty in legislating radical change is a feature of our system of government, not a bug as Reid asserts. Big changes should never be made too easily and quickly and by only a bare majority.

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