Changing the way the Senate does business

Changing the way the Senate does business
Changing the way the Senate does business

A few weeks ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a traditionalist who’s resisted changes to the way the chamber operates, raised some eyebrows when he voiced support for systemic institutional changes. Three weeks later, it looks like he meant it.

Referencing last year’s reform efforts from Democratic Sens. Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley, Reid said on the floor, “These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong.”

Was this just said in momentary frustration, or is Reid now on board with changing the way the dysfunctional chamber does business? It may depend on the election outcomes.

A frustrated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he and other Democrats would likely push for changes to Senate filibuster rules if the Democrats hold the Senate in November, and blamed Republican obstructionism for forcing these changes.

“I’ll just bet you … if we maintain a majority, and I feel quite confident that we can do that, and the president is reelected, there is going to be some changes,” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday morning. “We can no longer go through this, every bill, filibusters on bills that they agree with. It’s just a waste of time to prevent us from getting things done.”

If Obama wins a second term, it’s tempting to think the broken Senate would make policymaking impossible anyway, leading to indefinite dysfunction. Reid is suggesting otherwise – if there’s a Democratic White House a Democratic majority in the Senate, Reid doesn’t intend to suffer through another Congress in which mandatory supermajorities are needed to approve nearly every measure.

We don’t yet know what “some changes” might include, and if Republicans maintain a majority in the House, reforms might only affect nominations, not bills.

But the more leading officials realize the Senate wasn’t designed to work this way, it didn’t used to work this way, and it can’t work this way, the better.