Angry with own members, Senate Dem threatens to change filibuster rules

Recall I wrote earlier that Senate Democrat Majority Leader Harry Reid is bluffing; he has no consensus on his healthcare bill.

Here's more evidence, and it's rich. From the Omaha-World Herald, today:

tom harkin, democrat, filibuster, healthcare, abortion, nelson, lieberman.jpg

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, may try to eliminate the Senate filibuster.

One or 2 members of the Democratic caucus have taken a "my-way-or- the-highway position" on health care, Harkin said today on a conference call with reporters.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-NE, has shaped up as one of the hardest votes for Democrats to land on the health care legislation. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent from CT who caucuses with the Democrats, also is proving to be a tough sell....

Nelson has said he has concerns about numerous provisions in the legislation, including certain excise taxes, its approach to abortion coverage and the creation of a new government insurance plan. Nelson and Harkin have both been part of a group of 10 Senate Democrats - liberals and moderates - trying to hammer out a compromise on the government insurance plan, or public option. [JLS note: You know, the group Reid said 2 days ago had hammered out a compromise]. Under Senate rules, it requires 60 votes to end a filibuster. That means Democrats need the support of all 60 members of their caucus, if Republicans are united in opposition. Harkin expressed frustration that the situation means 1 or 2 senators can exert enormous influence over legislation.

"It really is an abuse," Harkin said. "It's an abuse of a person's position as a senator to demand, because we need one more vote, just to demand everything. It's really unfair to the rest of the Senate, rest of the caucus."

He said lots of senators, himself included, have to come to terms with disappointments in the health care bill.

"To sort of lay down an ultimatum, 'Well, it's got to be this or nothing and I'm walking away from it,' well that's not the way you do legislation," Harkin said. "If you want to be a legislator, maybe it's not the right place for a person to be that takes a position like that."

Harkin said he's not sure about the level of support among other senators for eliminating the filibuster. He noted that he proposed legislation to do so years ago.

"You know who my co-sponsor was? Joe Lieberman," Harkin said.

So Harkin is willing to change the rules - against members of his own team. As I said, rich.

[HT: Dougy; photo via the Omaha-World Herald]


Do not lose any sleep over this. Any proposal to change the Senate rules is itself subject to a filibuster, and one that would be even more difficult to end than a regular filibuster. That is because, under Senate Rule 22, debate on any proposed rules change can only be ended by a vote of TWO-THIRDS of the members of the Senate present and voting -- that would be 67 senators, if they all vote. That is seven more than the 60-vote threshold that applies to all other cloture motions.

Douglas Johnson
Legislative Director
National Right to Life Committee

Posted by: Douglas Johnson at December 10, 2009 5:53 PM

Uhmm, I'm hanging with Doug on this one. He didn't get voted one of the most influential lobbyists in D.C. by not knowing his stuff.

Posted by: Julie Schmit-Albin at December 11, 2009 12:13 AM

Why am I not surprized to see Iowa's biggest mistake saying this? I cannot understand why we keep reelecting him.

Posted by: Al at December 11, 2009 4:01 AM