Fix the Dysfunctional Senate Rules, Harry!

04/29/2013 08:01 am ET | Updated Jun 29, 2013
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At the beginning of the current Congressional session, the Democratic Party majority in the Senate had the opportunity to change the rules regarding the filibuster and the need for a super-majority -- sixty votes -- to get anything done. Many members of the party begged Harry Reid, the majority leader, to take the necessary steps to do that, given the Republican minority's unprecedented use, over the previous four years, of these undemocratic procedures to blatantly and repeatedly block anything that the president and the Democrats tried to move forward in response to the will of the majority of the electorate. Instead of having to stand up and explain their objections to specific legislation or administration nominees for key appointments, the mere threat of a filibuster -- along with the sixty-vote requirement -- has brought everything to a halt, contributing enormously to Washington gridlock.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that the Republican minority had abused these Senate rules to thwart the democratic will of the American people, the Majority Leader passed up the opportunity in January to change the rules back to the system that required the standing filibuster and a simple majority vote. This decision was based on a reported understanding he had with the Republican leadership that they would not continue to abuse the process. That understanding -- whatever it was has been repeatedly violated this session, with Republicans blocking action on countless presidential nominees to judicial, regulatory and other essential government bodies. These actions are bald efforts by the Republicans to prevent the judicial and administrative branches of our government from carrying out their responsibilities to the country, especially if that might include reining in the abuses of the financial, energy, pharmaceutical and other corporate interests who have heavily underwritten Republican office holders, with the expectation that they will do their bidding.

The most egregious abuse of these antidemocratic tactics was, of course, in blocking proposed gun control legislation, despite the fact that it was supported by ninety percent of the American people, including large majorities of Republicans, gun owners and NRA members. It even had the support of a majority in the Senate but not the sixty votes required to move it along.

How Harry Reid managed to miscalculate the consequences of his having chosen not to change the Senate rules in January when he and the Democratic majority had the opportunity is hard to fathom. We were all led to believe that, in the Senate, deals like the one he is supposed to have made with his colleagues across the aisle were inviolable - a handshake used to be binding on the parties involved. Clearly, he was missing something -- or we are. In a recent interview on Nevada Public Radio, Senator Reid stated that:

All within the sound of my voice, including my Democratic Senators and the Republican Senators who I serve with, should understand that we as a body have the power, on any given day, to change the rules with a simple majority, and I will do that if necessary.

Mousy threats like this are not going to work against the feral Republican cats in the Senate. You need to man up, Harry, for all our sakes, and fix the dysfunctional Senate rules without further delay. You should have done it in January when you blew a golden opportunity. If you fail to act expeditiously now, the 2008 and 2012 elections might just as well not have happened.