Harry Reid Defends Changing Filibuster Rules
I will believe that Harry Reid finally changes the filibuster rules, even in the small way he discussed here, when I see it happen. They ought to be changing them on judicial nominations as well after the obstruction we've seen from these Republicans, but it doesn't appear they've got the votes to do that.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued on Sunday that rules reform is needed in Congress because it has a lower approval rating than North Korea.
“Is there anyone out there in the real world that believes that what’s going on in Congress of the United States is good? Our approval rating is lower than North Korea’s,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.
Republicans have charged that triggering the nuclear option, which Reid is weighing, will destroy the character of the Senate. They say if Reid changes the filibuster rule with a special tactic that requires only 51 votes, it would amount to “breaking the rules to change the rules.” Under the chamber’s standing rules, 67 votes are needed to make changes.
Reid sought to minimize the reform he wants to implement with the nuclear option, so dubbed because it will likely cause a meltdown in bipartisan relations. [...]
Reid said he has had to contend with 420 GOP filibusters since he because Senate majority leader in 2007. During a similar span of time, his predecessor Lyndon Baines Johnson faced only one filibuster, Reid said.
Reid invoked the nation’s founding fathers, claiming they wanted the Senate to approve the president’s nominees by simple-majority votes.
Reid disputed a comparison to 2005, when he and other Democrats fiercely resisted an effort by then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) to use the nuclear option to bar Democrats from blocking then President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees.
Gregory knows full well this isn't something we've seen in the past, but that didn't stop him from hammering away at Reid for changing his position on filibuster reform. As Reid pointed out, we've got them blocking appointments to make sure entire departments of government can't function now, not because they don't think a nominee is qualified to fill the job. It's long overdue if they do finally put a stop to it.
Full transcript below the fold.
DAVID GREGORY: All right. Let me switch gears to what's happening in the Senate, in this war of words between you and the minority leader. There's a lot of-- minutiae about the rules that people may not follow. It basically boils down to whether the minority party can and should be able to stop the majority party from getting something done. And what-- and when-- as we talk about it, what-- what's striking to me, Leader McConnell was on this program nearly two years ago. This is what he said about the concept of divided government then.
“You know divided government -- that’s when neither party controls the entire government -- is the perfect time to do big stuff.”
DAVID GREGORY: "The perfect time to do big stuff." So what's happened? Why hasn't it worked the way he thought it would?
HARRY REID: Mitch is going to be on a little later. And I am-- he is going to defend the status quo. Is there anyone out there in the world, the real world that believes that what's going on in the Congress of the United States is good? Our approval rating is lower than North Korea's.
It is really, really difficult. And-- and, David, let's talk about what is happening. We're not doing anything that affects lifetime appointments. We're doing nothing that affects legislation. Here is what we're doing. A President, whether it's President Obama, the new President Clinton, or the new Bush, whoever is President should be able to have the people on their team that they want.
Now, the-- the sky is falling. I have been leader for about the same time-- Lyndon Johnson was. During the time he was leader, one filibuster. Me, 420. During the time that President Obama has been President, he has had 6 filibusters against his g-- nominations. During the entire history of this country, the country, there has only been 20. And-- and changing the rules is like the sky is falling. We have done it. During the last 36 years, we have done 18 times. We did just a year ago.
DAVID GREGORY: But here's--
HARRY REID: So Pres--
DAVID GREGORY: --but here's--
HARRY REID: No, no, no, listen. I want-- I want everyone to hear this. The changes we're making are very, very minimal. What we're doing is saying, "Look, American people. Shouldn't President Obama have somebody working for him that he wants?" The 15 people that we filed cloture on that are pending, they've been waiting an average of nine months.
Nine months, is that good? Is that-- do we want to continue that? So we're going to make a simple change. What we're going to do is say in the future, just like the Constitution outlines. The Constitution is pretty specific. If you want a supermajority vote, look at what a veto is or a treaty. But if you want to look at a nomination, you know what the s-- you know what the founding fathers said? Simple majority. That's what we need.
DAVID GREGORY: But that's not what you said in the pa-- you wrote in your own book in 2008, with regard to the potential rule change over judicial nominees, which is not at-- at play here. In 2005, you wrote, "In a fit of partisan fury, they were tryin' to blow up the Senate. Senate rules can only be changed by a 2/3's vote in the Senate or 67 Senators." The Republicans were goin' to do it illegally with a simple majority of 51. You were--
DAVID GREGORY: --saying the--
DAVID GREGORY: Hold on. Let me just finish the question. You are saying the sky is not falling. When the Republicans did it, you said it was illegal to do--
HARRY REID: You've answered m--
DAVID GREGORY: --what you want to do--
HARRY REID: --but you've answered my question. We're not touching judges. That is what they were talking about. This is not judges. This is not legislation. This is allowing the people of America to have a President who can have his team, to have his team in place. This is nothing like went on before.
Remember-- remember what's going on. This President has had 16 executive nominations filibustered. We have now 15 pending and with average-- we-- we have an average-- we have an average of-- I lost my number there for a second. But they have been waiting an average of--
DAVID GREGORY: But is--
HARRY REID: --nine months. Nine months. We-- we-- the peo-- the three that you talked about all the time. Cordray, this wild-eyed ib-- liberal that they don't like, you know how-- you know who he worked for? Bork. He was a clerk for Judge Bork, a clerk for s-- Supreme Court Justice Kennedy.
It-- they don't have-- they have nothing against the qualifications. They don't like the jobs these people have. Qu-- qualifications. Consumer protective against Wall Street. That's what Cordray is. We have the Secretary of Labor. They don't like that-- created during the Depression.
They don't like that because this man, Perez, who has worked so hard-- he was a garbage man during-- during the time he was going through school. Perez, you see, wants to be Secretary of Labor. He has been waiting for months and months. Finally, two secretaries-- two members of la-- National Labor Relations Board.
What does this do? It protects American workers from the abuse of the employers. They have been waiting two years. How do you like that one? And we-- we-- we're-- we're making big changes? All we're doing is doing what the Constitution says, elect these peo-- appoint these people by the President and let us approve 'em with a simple majority.
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