It’s been nearly three months since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) struck a bad deal with Republicans on filibuster reform that did not actually reform the filibuster. Reid hoped that the minor changes would help the chamber be marginally more efficient, but it wasn’t long before GOP abuses actually made matters worse.
As we talked about a few weeks ago, what have we seen from the Senate since the deal? The first-ever filibuster of a cabinet nominee, a filibuster of a CIA nominee, and multiple threats of a filibuster against the Labor Secretary nominee. Republicans have filibustered judicial nominees they don’t like and judicial nominees they do like. GOP senators have promised to use filibusters to stop the Obama administration from enforcing the law as it relates to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and to stop the president’s nominee to lead the ATF and the EPA. All of this represents a level of abuse without precedent.
And so, as he’s done before, Reid is suggesting he’s open to more ambitious reforms, and on Friday, was a little more explicit on this point than he’s been since January.
“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,” Reid said on Nevada Public Radio. […]
“I’m a very patient man. Last Congress and this Congress, we had the opportunity to make some big changes. We made changes, but the time will tell whether they’re big enough. I’m going to wait and build a case,” Reid said. “If the Republicans in the Senate don’t start approving some judges and don’t start helping get some of these nominations done, then we’re going to have to take more action.”
This is of particular interest given Sri Srinivasan’s judicial nomination the D.C. Circuit, which is set to move in committee this week, and may well be the straw that broke the camel’s back if blocked by another Republican filibuster.
But there will soon come a point at which Harry Reid has to make a decision: will he take action or will he keep talking about taking action?
Greg Sargent had a good take on this today.
By my count, this is at least the third time a Dem Senate leader has threatened to revisit rules reform. Yet the obstructionism continues with no action on Reid’s part.
Reid needs to stop threatening to revisit the filibuster unless he actually means it. Empty threats accomplish nothing. Indeed, they’re counterproductive. They make Dems look weak. They inflate expectations among Dem base voters – and supporters who worked hard to reelect Obama and Dems to Congress – that we may soon enjoy a functional Senate.
I have no idea what Reid has in mind. His use of the phrase “build a case,” struck me as interesting – perhaps the Majority Leader is creating a lengthy indictment, and is racking up examples for later use – but I can’t say with confidence that it will lead to anything specific.
But Greg’s absolutely right about the importance of follow-through – if Reid’s threats amount to warnings, urging Republicans to reconsider their abusive tactics before they force Democrats’ hands, then the Majority Leader’s recent rhetoric makes sense. But if he’s not prepared to give the “nuclear option” a serious look, Reid really needs to stop suggesting it’s on the table.