Sen. Reid: Founding Fathers Would Frown on Filibusters

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 10:21 PM

By Andrea Billups

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The nation's founders would reject any effort to filibuster presidential nominees, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday, in a reversal of his own previous efforts when he filibustered nominations made by President George W. Bush.

Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told The Washington Times he's since changed his mind, noting similar efforts by Republicans to slow down progress on nominees from President Barack Obama.

And he said the Constitution mentions those times when a supermajority should be used: constitutional amendments, impeachments, and overrides of presidential vetoes, the Times reported.

"In the same paragraph where the founding fathers talked about a supermajority, they mentioned presidential nominations — majority," said Reid, speaking Monday at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Filibusters are not outlined in the Constitution. They refer to prolonged speech during a floor discussion that serves to eat up time or obstruct a vote on a proposed measure. They have been used to grandstand or draw publicity to a controversial vote.

"The founding fathers wanted an up-or-down vote, and that’s basically what we’ve been crying for now for years," said Reid, noting the final passage of bills or even votes on nominees still require a majority. In 1917, the rules were changed to allow a "supermajority" to end protracted debates.

Reid warned that the Senate could become obsolete if its reliance on filibusters continued, the Times reported. "I love the Senate, but right now the Senate is broken and needs to be fixed," Reid said.

On Tuesday, with seven "showdown" presidential nominee votes expected in the Senate. Reid said if Republicans attempt to block those by filibuster, he has enough votes to impose what he called a "nuclear option."

His option would allow a change in Senate rules that would essentially outlaw filibusters and allow a simple majority of 51 votes for most presidential nominees, other than judges. It also would not apply to legislation.

He said he realizes the option could work against his party when Republicans are in the White House, but still sees the sense in a limited rule change to make the presidential nominating process more efficient.

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