How Harry Reid Paved the Way for Democrats to Kill the Filibuster

“There will come a time when we will all be gone,” Harry Reid wrote in 2008, “and the institutions that we now serve will be run by men and women not yet living, and those institutions will either function well because we’ve taken care with them, or they will be in disarray and someone else’s problem to solve.”

Reid, the former Democratic Senate leader who died Dec. 28 at 82, lies in state in the Capitol today—a Capitol once again seized by debate over its functioning as an institution and its ability to solve the people’s problems. On Tuesday, President Biden, another Senate institutionalist, went to Georgia to demand the body suspend its 60-vote threshold in order to pass voting-rights legislation.
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It was a change Reid would have welcomed, having concluded years ago that the filibuster’s time had come. Yet when he wrote those words in 2008, he was recalling a moment he’d been on the other side of the issue. The next sentence reads, “Well, because the Republicans couldn’t get their way getting some radical judges confirmed to the federal bench, they were threatening to change the Senate so fundamentally that it would never be the same again.”

In 2005, President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Senate, frustrated with Democrats’ filibustering of judicial nominees, were threatening the “nuclear option” to end it. The GOP turned an arcane procedural issue into a national crusade, ginning up partisan fervor against the filibuster. Reid, then the Senate minority leader, was determined to save it. “The Nuclear Option” merits an entire chapter in Reid’s memoir, The Good Fight, co-written with Mark Warren. He calls then-GOP leader Bill Frist’s efforts to scrap the filibuster dangerous, radical, reckless, and the potential “end of the United States Senate,” and gives a blow-by-blow of putting together the bipartisan “Gang of 14” that would ultimately avert such a change. “In a fit of partisan fury, they were trying to blow up the Senate,” Reid writes, “future generations be damned.”

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Those sentiments faded a long time ago. Seven years after cutting a deal that preserved the filibuster, Reid himself went nuclear in 2013, eliminating the threshold for executive and most judicial confirmations. In 2017, with Republicans again in charge of the White House and Senate, then-majority leader Mitch McConnell got rid of it for Supreme Court nominees as well, though he resisted President Trump’s efforts to kill it for legislative passage. Today, with 50 Democratic votes in the Senate and little Republican buy-in for the voting bills they see as essential, liberals are fervently pushing to abolish it altogether.

Reid came out for killing the filibuster in 2019, arguing that it had outlived its usefulness and was suppressing the popular will. “The legislative filibuster is gone,” he told me that summer. “It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when they’ll get rid …read more

Source:: Time – Politics

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