June 5, 2012
“Since [Harry] Reid became Majority Leader in the United States Senate, the majority party has tyrannically seized control of the agenda in the Senate in a manner not contemplated by the Founding Fathers,” Heritage Foundation expert Brian Darling argues in an important new analysis.
In particular, Darling writes, Reid has made unprecedented use of procedures like “filling the amendment tree,” in which the majority leader “us[es] his privilege of being recognized first to offer amendment after amendment to block all other amendments to a bill.”
“The Founders,” Darling argues, “envisioned the Senate as a slow and deliberative legislative body. Not surprisingly, the Senate developed traditions that reflect these characteristics, such as extended debate and an open amendment process.”
But today, the Senate has adopted rules that limit debate on critical issues from the federal budget to gun rights to judicial nominations. Darling elaborates:
Senators have lost their right to participate in the national debate on many issues. Both Republican and Democratic leaders have used this strong-arm tactic, but Reid has used it as a normal course of business on almost every bill that comes before the Senate. This development is bad for democracy.
The Senate is known for two long-standing traditions: the right to extended debate and the right of all Members to offer amendments to bills pending on the Senate floor. Both traditions are under attack. If these two long-standing traditions are not restored in this or the next Congress, regardless of which party controls the Senate, they will likely be lost forever.
Should Harry Reid stop using these tactics in the Senate?