The Norman Transcript

Opinion

July 17, 2013

Senate in for a showdown

NORMAN — Harry Reid needs to be careful what he wishes for.

As the old saying goes, he just may get it.

Reid, as Senate majority leader, has been frustrated in recent years by the limited success of the Democratic agenda in his chamber. Republicans have repeatedly taken advantage of Senate rules to thwart action.

Reid no doubt looks with envy at the situation in the GOP-controlled House, where virtually everything is handled by simple majority rule. In the Senate, however, many votes — such as those to overcome filibusters — require super majorities, 60 votes instead of 51. This gives Republicans the power to block many actions.

In many ways, these rules reflect the Senate’s reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body. In the past, minority power in the Senate has proven to be a useful way to promote bipartisanship in key areas.

Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case. Instead, the rules have deteriorated to the point that the minority frequently blocks any action it can. The reason may have nothing to do with philosophical concerns, but rather simply because it’s possible.

Reid is talking about changing certain aspects of Senate rules to weaken the minority’s power. Specifically, he wants to allow simple majority votes on certain presidential nominations. This would not include federal judges, but appointments to federal agencies that require Senate confirmation.

Reid argues the existing roadblocks damage Congress’ reputation. “Our approval rating is lower than North Korea’s,” he said over the weekend.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader, is attacking Reid’s plan, charging it would “change the core of the Senate.” Yet last week, his party agreed to allow some of Obama’s stalled nominees to be approved.

It may be that Reid is making this threat to force Republicans to be more judicious in the nominations they block. If so, it may be a prudent tactic on his part. But if he goes forward with his plan — and Democrats have the ability to change the rules — it will indeed, as McConnell claims, alter the Senate’s dynamic.

Plus, it could be the start of a larger move to weaken the power of the minority in the Senate. If Democrats see benefits in restricting minority power for some votes, why not take away their ability to block judicial nominations and other major appointments?

— New Castle, Pa., News

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Congress should close gaps

    Of all of Edward Snowden’s revelations about electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, the most unsettling was that the government was accumulating vast numbers of records about the telephone calls of American citizens. In ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Border obsession overlooks trade

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry made headlines recently by ordering 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. This bravado comes at a price: $12 million a month. Perry plans to send the bill the federal government. That’s one way to finance your ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Intercession badly needed in this world

    Yesterday was my feast day, or as the Italians call it, my “onomastico.” Since I live in the United States, it went completely unnoticed. If I lived in Italy, however, I would have been showered with cards and phone calls. That’s because ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Help better than commentary

    For the last seven years, I have helped run Hands Helping Paws, an animal welfare and rescue group that fosters Norman’s abandoned animals and advocates for spay and neuter initiatives to reduce our community’s problems with stray and ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Stick to the sports

    Editor, The Transcript: Why must we, especially us nice conservatives, be subjected to political commentary in a sports column? I hear/view Fox News routinely and find their coverage quite acceptable. I also hear/view CNN and MSNBC. I ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Corporation Commission should should evaluate quakes, fracturing

    Editor, The Transcript: Is your house at risk of being damaged in an earthquake because of fracking? Maybe. We’ve seen more earthquakes and tremors in Oklahoma seven months into 2014 than in the two previous years combined. At the same ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Norman can stop fracking before it escalates

    Editor, The Transcript: There are 163 fracked wells within Norman city limits. With growing attention to health and safety concerns, the city is considering changes to the existing oil and gas ordinance....

    July 27, 2014

  • We should be offended by things that matter

    Editor, The Transcript: I’m offended. Why you say? I live in the USA, in Norman — a great town. What could possibly offend me? I’ll tell you. It’s people that are offended by the most meaningless things (what to call an evergreen tree in ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Porch leap looked muchbigger as a kid

    It’s no secret that porch designs have changed over the years. Drive through new Norman developments and look at the porches. Most only have room for a potted plant and a spot to drop those UPS packages, no place for a porch swing or ...

    July 27, 2014

  • State, local jobmarkets look up

    A tight labor market is often a big problem for economic development professionals. They need to be able to promise companies that there are willing workers in the community’s labor pool....

    July 26, 2014