Democrats Change The Rules

The Senate Democrats have decided to change the way things are done in the Senate. from Politico:

By a 51-48 vote, the Senate voted along party lines to change the precedent and limit how amendments can be considered once a filibuster is defeated. Under normal procedure, the Senate has 30 hours of debate after 60 senators agree to end a filibuster. Amendments can be considered during those 30 hours if each side agrees by unanimous consent to schedule a vote — or if a senator moves to waive the rules, which would then require the support of 67 senators in order to succeed.

But under the new procedure, senators can no longer move to waive the rules once a filibuster is defeated — a battle that threatens to further inflame partisan tensions and stymie legislative action at a time when frustration with Congress is at an all-time high.

While the rules change may not seriously affect the substance of pending legislation, the process employed by Democrats could be replicated in the future to overhaul bedrock rules like the filibuster. For that reason, both parties have tried to avoid employing such tactics to change the rules over the last several congressional sessions, including in a fierce 2005 battle that nearly limited the use of the filibuster.

It is a curious move by the Democrats, since this does indeed weaken the minority’s power and it currently looks more and more like the Democrats will be in the minority after the 2012 election. What precipitated the move? Again, from Politico:  

The latest procedural dispute centered around Republican amendments to a bill aimed at retaliating against China for allegedly undervaluing its currency in an attempt to sell its exports at much cheaper prices. The bill was headed towards final passage after a bipartisan majority defeated a Republican filibuster Thursday morning — even after no GOP amendments had been considered.

After the filibuster was defeated, Republicans had a series of unrelated amendments they wanted debated, including one by McConnell to force the Senate to decide whether to bring up Obama’s original jobs proposal that had caused some controversy among a handful of Democratic senators.

McConnell sought to waive the rules so they could consider the president’s jobs bill — ensuring that there would be no vote on the merits of Obama’s plan — along with six other amendments. But Democrats refused to consider one amendment in particular – a plan by Nebraska Sen. Mike Johanns that he says would stop the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating farm dust. The EPA has said its efforts to crack down on soot pollution would not affect farm dust.

“He wants to run the Senate like he’s king, but he’s not,” an angry Johanns told POLITICO. “No one elected him king.”

McConnell said Reid should not be allowed to pick-and-choose which GOP amendments could be considered, and insisted that the Johanns plan be part of the mix. Faced with a stalemate, Reid called for a vote asking the Senate to ensure that post-cloture motions to suspend the rules are considered out-of-order – a move that had been quietly debated in Reid’s office since Thursday morning. All Democrats, except for Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, voted to make the change.

“I didn’t want to change the rules without debate or understanding what it is,” said Nelson, who had conferred with Reid on the floor. “Potentially this would change the rules forever”

Not potentially, Senator, it does change the rules forever. Do the Democrats think the people have forgotten the way they shoved Obamacare down our throats? Now they  change the rules to make it easier for them to pass their agenda and avoid taking difficult votes, one last time from Politico:

McConnell said the real problem was that Democrats in the Senate – many of whom are up for reelection next year — didn’t want to take tough votes.

“The fundamental problem here is that the majority never likes to take votes,” McConnell said. “The price of being in the majority is you have to take bad votes. Because in the United States Senate, the minority is entitled to be heard.”

Yep, it is going to be interesting, if the Republicans do become the majority as projected, to see how the Democrats react when Republicans act on this precedent.