Senate Rules Reform: Udall, Harkin, Merkley Remind Us Why Washington Doesn’t Take Liberals Seriously
With their total capitulation on Senate rules reform, Sen. Tom Udall (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Tom Harkin (D-IA) again remind us why no one in Washington takes liberals seriously. . . and frankly why they shouldn’t.
For months, Udall has been promoting the “Constitutional Option,” which would allow the senators to declare the first day of a new Congress a new Senate. This would allow a simple majority of senators to approve a new set of Senate rules without needing 67 votes to overcome a filibuster on rules reform. Udall had claimed repeatedly that he was going to call at the beginning of the new Senate for it to “exercise its constitutional right to adopt its rules of procedure by a simple majority vote.”
While I didn’t suspect Udall’s plan would succeed in reforming the Senate rules this time, I still strongly supported it. I hoped it would raise media attention of the fact that there is, in reality, nothing actually stopping the Senate from changing its rules with a simple majority vote. It would force senators to go on the record about simple majority rules reform and, most importantly, would start normalizing the Constitutional Option. Even if it didn’t succeed this year, it would make it more likely to happen and less radical seeming in the near future.
Yet, instead of forcing a vote on the issue, Udall, Merkley and Harkin merely talked about it a few hours on the floor yesterday, and then gave up. Because they didn’t have 51 supporters, they decide to bend to the will of leadership. There will be no vote on the Constitutional Option; in its place, there will possibly be some incredibly weak and effectively meaningless bipartisan reform.
Backing down: a strong pattern on the left
This is part of an obvious pattern on the left. Whether it is the broken public option pledge (where House progressives vowed to vote against any bill without it), or the pledge of pro-choice Democrats to vote against any health care bill with a roll back abortion rights. The broken pledge of Bernie Sanders to force a vote on the public option in the Senate, or the House Democrats broken pledge to vote against any war supplemental without a plan for withdrawal. Members of the Congress on the left have a habit of making promises on which they actually have the power to follow through, yet they still end up backing down. It is no wonder liberals’ threats simply aren’t taken seriously in this town.