Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Learn to Negotiate the Harry Reid Way

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If they pull a knife, we’ll pull an agreement to never use a gun no matter what:

A few moments ago, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell took to the floor of the Senate to announce an agreement on rules reform. But the meat of the agreement was not on which rules will be reformed. It was on the process by which rules can be reformed: Reid and McConnell agreed that the rules cannot — or at least should not — be changed by majority vote. 

“As part of this compromise,” Reid said, “we’ve agreed that I won’t force a majority vote to fundamentally change the Senate — that is the so-called ‘constitutional option’ — and he [McConnell] won’t in the future.” In other words, Reid and McConnell have agreed that the Senate’s rules will not be decided by a 51-vote majority. That was what the constitutional option was about, and that’s what Reid explicitly rejected in his speech. “Both McConnell and Reid feared what would happen if they were in the minority,” explains a Reid aide.

This agreement is merely a handshake, of course. Either Reid or McConnell could turn around and change the rules with 51-votes at some future date. But note the tone Reid is taking: It’s not that he’d prefer not to use the constitutional option at some future date, or that he won’t do so as long as the Republicans don’t abuse the rules. It’s that he simply won’t. The long-term effort to reform the filibuster didn’t take an incremental step forward today. The minority is not on notice that further abuse could lead to more significant reforms. Rather, Reid and the Democrats agreed that the only way to free the Senate from needing a supermajority to get anything done is to muster an even larger supermajority to change the rules. That is to say, both parties have codified the supermajority requirement.

With the House now in Republican hands, ending or amending the filibuster is mostly just a theoretical concern anyway. (Anything that can get through Boehner’s caucus and past Obama’s veto pen can almost certainly get 60 votes.) I guess we should be happy Reid didn’t give away more.

Written by gerrycanavan

January 27, 2011 at 2:17 pm

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