Michigan Sen. Carl Levin , who was one of three Democrats to vote against the “nuclear option” on filibusters, has attacked Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a Texas newspaper editorial for “poisoning the well” with the Republicans.
“A Washington that needed more compromise and bipartisanship just grew further apart in the bitterest way. All pain, no gain,” the six-term senator said in the Dallas Morning News.
“The filibuster, that Senate tradition, took a solid whack to the knees last week, as Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada finally employed what he and others before him had threatened for years: the ‘nuclear option’.”
The Democratic-controlled Senate voted 52-48 to end the requirement that at least 60 votes be needed to advance executive-branch and lower-court nominations. The vote now simply needs a majority of 51-49.
Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, along with two other Democrats, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, voted against the change, which does not apply to Supreme Court nominees or legislation.
“What Reid did was shove past more than 200 years of the Senate effectively requiring more than a simple majority to move forward on most business,” says Levin, who has decided not to seek re-election in the 2014 midterm elections, setting the stage for a wide-open race to replace Michigan’s longest-serving senator.
“For nearly four decades, it has required a three-fifths majority, 60 votes, to close off a filibuster. That was the minority party’s chief weapon in fending off the majority. Reid pushed through a simple majority vote to change the Senate’s rules and bar the filibuster for most judicial and other executive branch nominees. Ka-boom.
“One would hope, for his sake, that he carefully considered the consequences almost certain to follow, like a cold beer chasing a shot of hard whiskey.
“At a time when Congress is fundamentally incapable of even basic cooperation, Reid has poisoned the well further, giving Republicans even less reason to work with Democrats.
“Reid will get more nominees through and little else. By going to DEFCON 1, he has imperiled every other item on the Democrats’ wish list.
“Because if you thought the Republicans troublesome before, how about now, when they have nothing to lose? And if you believed a filibuster was the only way to gum up the works, watch the Senate closely through the 2014 midterm elections.
“Surely Reid doesn’t believe Republicans, if they ever reclaim the Senate and White House, will spare Democrats the rod ever again,” Levin writes.
Republicans have blasted the change, which takes away the GOP’s main weapon in blocking executive-branch nominations, saying it’s a Democratic power grab that has dealt a huge blow to the Senate’s institutional integrity.
Levin said he wanted to amend the filibuster rules, like many other senators, because a president, regardless of his party, should be able to get a vote on his or her nominees for executive positions and for district and circuit courts.
“But to change it in the way we changed it . . . means there are no rules except as the majority wants them. It is a very major shift in the very nature of this institution if the majority can do whatever it wants by changing the rules whenever it wants, with a method that has not been used before in this body, to change the very rules of this body.”
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By Drew MacKenzie