In what Republicans call a ‘dangerous’ and ‘desperate’ act, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and 52 Democratic senators nuked a centuries-old rule providing for sanity in the Senate and protecting the rights of the minority party from getting trampled on by the majority. ‘It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate,” noted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa called it ‘a naked power grab.’ Or as a reader responding to Senate Dems weaken GOP power with major filibuster rule change put it, “WHY EVEN BOTHER HAVING A VOTE ON ANYTHING ANYMORE?” when the majority gets to decide.
The nuclear option was first proposed by Republicans in 2003 when Democrats were blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations. At the time, Trent Lott was majority leader. But he has had a change of heart. “It was a mistake when we were talking about doing it,” Lott told CNN. “I still believe the Senate is a unique institution and the rules – ‘ no matter how cumbersome and difficult – ‘ are better than just making it another House of Representatives.”
Conservatives are nothing if they are not consistent and principled. Rush Limbaugh’s appropriate response comparing majority rule to allowing a majority of men to vote to legalize rape in concert with Trent Lott’s disdainful comment that majority rule will make the Senate just another House of Representatives will make conservatives take the high road and reconsider the way things are done in the House. This particularly applies to the use of the ‘Hastert Rule‘ which goes way beyond mere majority rule. Its role not only prevents reasonable minority power to restrict bald-faced majority rule, it goes further and prevents the minority from presenting bills for a vote, and ensures that a vote will take place only when a majority of the majority approves.
As I said, conservatives are nothing if not consistent and principled. Republicans in the House will surely want to stand with their fellow Republican senators against the tyranny of majority rule and enact significant changes in the way the House operates. We anticipate these changes.