Restoration of majority rule gains some attention

RESTORATION OF MAJORITY RULE GAINS SOME ATTENTION…. Not long after Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced their proposal yesterday to bring majority rule back to the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was largely dismissive. For Reid, the likelihood of the bill getting 67 votes is so small, the effort is doomed to fail.

That’s not necessarily wrong. But the more attention the debate receives, the more the public might begin to understand that the Republicans’ unprecedented obstructionism is responsible for Democrats being unable to govern effectively. And with that in mind, I’m pleased to see some noteworthy developments this afternoon.

I noted earlier that Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was likely to endorse the legislation, and it’s now official — Durbin is on board. Better yet, the Senate leader is reportedly “in talks with a number of other Democratic senators regarding possible changes to Senate rules.”

We also learned today that a new NYT/CBS poll found 50% of Americans already support changing Senate rules to allow for the return of majority rule.

And what about the White House? The president, obviously, doesn’t get a vote, and can’t tell the Senate how to operate. But an endorsement from Obama would raise the profile of the issue considerably.

Today, ABC News’ Jake Tapper noted that the president has “expressed frustration at how often Republicans have required Democrats to achieve 60 votes since becoming the minority party after the November 2006 elections.”

In December, interviewed by Jim Lehrer on PBS’s NewsHour, the president said, “as somebody who served in the Senate, who values the traditions of the Senate, who thinks that institution has been the world’s greatest deliberative body, to see the filibuster rule, which imposes a 60-vote supermajority on legislation — to see that invoked on every single piece of legislation, during the course of this year, is unheard of. I mean, if you look historically back in the ’50s, the ’60s, the ’70s, the ’80s — even when there was sharp political disagreements, when the Democrats were in control for example and Ronald Reagan was president — you didn’t see even routine items subject to the 60-vote rule.”

The president said “if this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We’re going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We’re not there right now.”

He suggested that if the 60-vote requirement is “used prudently, then I don’t think it’s harmful for our democracy. It’s not being used prudently right now. And my hope would be that whether a senator is in the majority or is in the minority, that they’re starting to get a sense, after looking at this year, that this can’t be the way that government runs.”

It stands to reason that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs will be asked to comment on the legislation, not just today, but going forward. Here’s hoping for some encouraging words.

Post Script: For those of you who keep track of such things, the Harkin/Shaheen proposal now has a bill number: S.RES.416. If you use Thomas, you can use the bill number to track its progress, and keep an eye on which senators (if any) sign on as co-sponsors.