Yesterday the Senate wanted to take up and quickly pass a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. After some maneuvering, the bill passed the House with over 330 votes, a rare sight these days. So you would think that nothing would go wrong over in the Senate. You would be wrong. That’s because the objection of a single Senator can gum up the works, and force the Majority Leader to move to a cloture vote to end debate and move forward on the bill. That’s what happened yesterday. Jon Kyl objected to unanimous consent, seeking to get votes on five amendments from Tea Party Senators. And Harry Reid filed for a cloture vote, scheduled for Monday.
But that’s not the fascinating part of this. Reid blew up at the delay, and in his frustration made a key statement, referring to last year’s filibuster reform attempt:
If there ever were a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight. These two young, fine senators said it was time we changed the rules in the Senate, and we didn’t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong — or most of us now anyway. What a shame. So here we are, wasting time because of the Republicans. … And then, to top it off, one of the finest members of the Senate we’ve had, ever, was defeated yesterday by a man, listen to this, Mr. President, who campaigned on the platform that there’s too much compromise in the Senate. And he’s going to come back here and not compromise with anybody on anything. Now that’s what we need in the Senate, more people who are willing to do nothing but fight.
This actually has a direct bearing on one of Merkley and Udall’s rules. They wanted to end the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed. That’s what Reid had to file for Monday.
Now, I’m going to put aside the notion of Richard Lugar as “one of the finest members of the Senate we’ve had.” But note the boldfaced portion. In fact, Reid resisted the Merkley and Udall-backed effort to change the Senate rules. He didn’t really want to bring them to the floor. Like so many other Senators, he worried about what might happen if Democrats were in the minority. By the way, if Democrats go into the minority, he’ll probably whistle the same tune. But for one day, he recognized that a Senate governed by a tyranny of the minority – in this case, a tyranny of one member – is preposterous.
You can quibble with whether Reid should object to the simple ask for votes on amendments. You cannot quibble that the Senate as a super-majority institution, where even one Senator can delay legislation for a week, where 59 Senators cannot work their will on the chamber, is horrendously broken. For whatever reason, it took until yesterday for Reid to figure this out.