Harry Reid Defends Senate Move, Says Republicans Are Holding Up Obama Jobs Bill
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) criticized Republicans for holding up President Barack Obama's jobs legislation and defended his precedent-busting parliamentary move last Thursday in a Washington Post op-ed published Monday.
"The Senate rule change we made last week has been inaccurately described ... as a resort to the 'nuclear option,'" he wrote. "But rather than a nuclear option that would have forever altered the character of the Senate by limiting the minority's ability to challenge legislation, the change we made Thursday was a return to order."
The Huffington Post's Ryan Grim and Michael McAuliff reported what happened in the Senate Thursday night:
McConnell moved to suspend the rules and shift debate over to the American Jobs Act. Reid argued that doing so amounted to another filibuster, because it required 60 votes to move back to the original bill, and so therefore was out of order. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who happened to be the presiding officer at the time, asked the Senate parliamentarian what he thought. The parliamentarian advised Begich that McConnell's motion was in order.
Reid then appealed the ruling, following a script that advocates of ending the filibuster wrote long ago. What some senators call the "constitutional option," and what others call the "nuclear option," involves as a first step appealing a ruling that a filibuster is in order. The second step is to defeat a motion to table that appeal, which is exactly what happened next, with all but one Democrat sticking with Reid. (Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted against Reid; Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) didn't vote.)
With the chair overruled, McConnell's motion was declared out of order, setting a narrow precedent that motions to suspend the rules are out of order during a post-cloture period.
Reid criticized the abuse of the filibuster in his op-ed: "The Senate moves by consent. But in recent years, the minority party has abused its right to debate and delay, and has upset the balance between minority rights and cooperation on which a productive Senate depends."
"The precedent we set merely returns the Senate to the regular order and only affects the ability of the minority to obstruct and delay after more than 60 senators have voted to end discussion," wrote Reid. "Now, 60 votes to end debate will mean debate actually ends, as the rules of the Senate intended."
Senate Republicans are likely to kill the American Jobs Act Tuesday. The Senate will vote on whether to cut off debate on the bill, requiring 60 votes. However, Democrats -- holding only 53 seats in the Senate -- will likely fall short in an effort to move forward on Obama's jobs bill.