Harry Reid Goes Pseudo-Nuclear

I thought, if he was going to do it, he'd do it to pass Obamacare. For reasons I can't fathom, the Senate Majority Leader elected earlier this evening to set a precedent permitting a majority to change a critical Senate procedure, by-passing the usual requirement for a super-majority. This is not quite an elimination of the filibuster, but could be used to achieve the same result.

Reid set this startling precedent, not to pass a crucial bill, but to prevent the Republicans from forcing a vote on the President's jobs bill. Why? Apparently to avoid having to admit that the Democrats do not have enough votes to pass the bill even by a majority vote. Why is that important? Apparently because the election theme for the next year is to be that the economy would have improved if the jobs bill had passed, and the only thing preventing passage of the jobs bill was Republican "no" votes.

A high-stakes play for a body that may be controlled by the other party after the November 2012 elections.


Grim said...

I suppose this should put an end to the speculation on the Left that Reid, etc., might approach Obama about stepping down. Clearly they are doubling down on preserving Obama, since a roll-call vote would show that the President has no support in the legislature.

douglas said...

I don't see why it's that risky for them- since the media generally support things like this when done by their side, and assail it when done by the other side, they expect they'll be able to have their cake and eat it too as they always have. We'll see if things have changed.

E Hines said...

I don't see why it's that risky for them

One risk is this: if the Republicans get a 51-49 majority in the Senate from 2012 and the White House (which works out to a 50-50 majority), Obamacare gets repealed on a simple majority vote: no filibuster. The supermajority cloture vote is just another Senate rule that can be suspended--by majority vote--or rescinded altogether. And then, in 2016, a lame duck Senate restores both.

The possibility for abuse abounds, by either party.

If I may make so bold, I offer a study assignment: review Rule of Law and Rule by Law.

Eric Hines

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Douglas I had some of the same thought, but this has a whiff of panic about it, doesn't it? Taking a long-term risk for a short-term gain? When they have held the whip hand before, they have played the opposite game, settling for hidden and half-victories which are cumulative, knowing that when they had to go to the mat, much of the media would provide cover.

But the media is broader now, and not all in their corner. Secondly, even those generally in their corner are more skittish than before. They had this smell of panic in the 90's but Bill Clinton demonstrated that he thrived in a tightrope environment. Yes he had help, but I note ruefully how good he was at it. His charm, Hillary's ruthlessness, a friendly media - it worked. (I over simplify - others besides Bill were charming, others besides Hillary were ruthless - but you take my point.)

Obama isn't as charming, and Michelle no real asset. The media is less supine. Yet as E Hines notes, there is another risk downstream, perhaps worse. Either party winning by gaming the system is bad for us in the long run. I prefer Republicans now. But I certainly don't trust all of them, either.

Texan99 said...

AVI, I'm glad to see you here.

douglas said...

Indeed, I hope you are right, it's just that I've seen that story too many times to feel any certainty that it will be different this time. The media is a powerful bludgeon, and unfortunately, is still in limited hands in terms of the broad distribution of the meme of the day. Yes, there are other outlets, and more information out there, so it's at least a competition now, but too often, we still come up short. I've realized that in this new media world, the few people I speak with matter more, and so hiding my political opinions now would have to be considered a shirking of my civic duty, where before it was simply avoiding the downsides for a no-gain proposition. I guess one could say there are no longer any sidelines.