Reid Promises Support For Filibuster Reform

Well, better late than never, I suppose. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who passed on an opportunity to promote filibuster reform in 2010 when Democrats were in a vastly better position to enact it, and again in 2011 when it could have been consummated via a simple majority vote on the rules set out at the beginning of each new Congress, is now promising to support reforms at the beginning of the next Congress, whether or not Democrats retain Senate control. Via WaPo’s Suzy Khimm, who caught a Reid interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz that I missed, Reid was categorical:

SCHULTZ: But you’d change the rules…

REID: Oh, we could have done it in the last Congress. But I got on the Senate floor and said that I made a mistake and I should have helped with that. It can be done if Obama is re-elected, and I can still do it if I have a majority, we can do it with a simple majority at the beginning of the next Congress.

SCHULTZ: Think the President will go along with that?

REID: You damn betcha.

Now Reid’s support is important, but only if he is willing to make support for filibuster reform an ultimate party discipline issue that Democratic Senators who like the idea of personal leverage over the entire U.S. government will not lightly reject.

The harder question, of course, is how Democrats will view this issue if Republicans win the White House and control of the Congress. Reid says he’ll support filibuster reform anyway. I’m strongly inclined to agree.

We’ll likely never have progressive governance in this country if every step is dependent on 60 votes in a Senate inherently controlled by small, and likely Red, States. If Republicans win the Trifecta in November, they will ruthlessly exploit existing rules to get their agenda enacted, and the theoretically awesome power of the Liberal Filibuster won’t matter. In the long run, breaking the power of the filibuster is unquestionably a progressive priority. And it will never, ever happen if it’s always a long-term proposition depending on short-term partisan advantages. Reid is right to finally break the mold and pledge to support it no matter what.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.