Third Party & Independents Archives

The Spotlight Is on Majority Leader McConnell

Since Harry Reid began filling up the amendment tree on a regular basis - a procedural tactic that converts the Senate Majority leader into the near-absolute gate keeper of amendments and thus debate in the upper chamber - the Senate has been transformed from a forum for open debate to a less democratic institution with emphasis on party discipline. The Senators’ two traditional freedoms: unlimited debate, and unlimited opportunity to offer amendments, are now carefully controlled by the majority leader. Now, because current majority leader McConnell has recently engaged in similar tactics, until he opened up the process this past weekend. A promise to open up the Senate again and return it to its traditional constitutional role has not been fulfilled as much as hoped for. Will that now change for the better?

One has to thank Ted Cruz, again, for doing battle wherever necessary to ensure that debate and amendments remain possible. He took a lot of flak and threw more than a little dirt himself in another bare knuckle brawl of the type he seems to enjoy, sometimes at his own peril. But his reasoning is, as usual, constitutionally sound. The last thing GOP voters expected is for McConnell to behave like Harry Reid. Well, maybe some GOP voters did. But the hope was that there would be a procedural change in the Senate, that would allow more debate, especially on issues that tend to bother the establishment, whether Republican or Democrat.

The senate needs to re-write some of its procedural rules and prune vigorously the "filling the amendment tree" tactic. A senate majority leader should not be able to stifle and control debate on issues he or she finds uncomfortable and wants to avoid. A "Pandora's box of irrelevant amendments" as put by the Washington Examiner, is in fact a way to highlight issues and debate them, as the Examiner itself asserts. And to bring the opposing party to account. So yes, the current fight in the senate has to do with seemingly irrelevant amendments to the highway bill and with conservatives' attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the scandalous videos. And even more than that, it is a matter of consistency and fairness in how the senate's peculiar rules of process are applied: yes to us centrists, but no to you conservatives. Exactly the kind of rule-bending that threatens to divide the GOP in the heart of the senate. The spotlight is on Majority Leader McConnell and it is up to him to heal the divide.

Posted by AllardK at July 28, 2015 8:23 PM
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