After facing an unprecedented number of filibusters over the past several years, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is finally seriously talking about adopting a few very modest reforms to the Senate’s rules to make it slightly less dysfunctional. In response some Senate Republicans are threatening to use every stupid Senate rule available to effective shut the chamber down if Democrats make any changes. From Politico:
Republicans are threatening even greater retaliation if Reid uses a move rarely used by Senate majorities: changing the chamber’s precedent by 51 votes, rather than the usual 67 votes it takes to overhaul the rules.
“I think the backlash will be severe,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the conservative firebrand, said sternly. “If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.”
“It will shut down the Senate,” the incoming Senate GOP whip, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, told POLITICO. “It’s such an abuse of power.”
Frankly, I would absolutely love to see Republicans carry through on this threat. To begin with, a Congress that is not passing any new laws in the next term is hardly a big lost for progressives at this moment. Given that Republicans still control the House and what President Obama has offered up in past negotiations with Speaker Boehner, I doubt there is any legislation those two would agreed that I would want to see enacted.
More importantly, if Republicans do use every obscure rule to bring the Senate to a standstill it would hopefully expose to the wider public what an idiotic and dysfunction chamber the Senate really is. Far from being the “world’s greatest deliberative body,” it is the least representative legislative chamber in any democracy on earth with some of the most truly asinine rule ever invented. The rules allow any senator, who is willing to act like a spoiled kid, to seize an absurd level of power. The current rules are more about protecting individual senators self-serving since of privilege than providing the American people with a functioning government.
If the Republican did fully shut down the Senate it would likely force the Democrats to eventual implement serious rules reform, which go well beyond the minor half measures they are currently looking at. Long term I think that would be a real improvement for the country.