The Senate is in a bad way these days. Not that the Presidency and the House are functioning all that well, but under the leadership of Harry Reid since January 2007, the U.S. Senate has reached levels of dysfunction unparalleled in its history, and presided over eight years of economic stagnation and bitterly polarized and increasingly petty and juvenile politics. Reid has ruined the Senate’s onetime distinguishing feature, the ability of any Senator to submit amendments and have them debated when bills came to the floor, with procedural restrictions unheard of between 1789 and 2006. Meanwhile, scores of bills that have passed the House are never even brought to a vote in the Senate – and without the amendment process, they can’t even be raised indirectly.
At the same time, Reid used the unprecedented “nuclear option” against judicial nominee filibusters – a tactic that scandalized Reid when it was briefly suggested in 2005-06 – for the express purpose of packing the D.C. Circuit ahead of an expected en banc appeal in Halbig v Burwell. Reid’s shenanigans have abolished most of the things that made the Senate different from – and less partisan than – the House, and predictably have increased the partisan temper of Washington in general. That’s before we even get into his increasingly paranoid and possibly senile rantings about the Koch brothers at the drop of a hat (“Senator Reid, would you like milk or cream in your coffee?” “Let me tell you about those Koch brothers…”).
John McCain is not, to put it mildly, a popular man around these parts, and least of all on the issue of immigration. But today’s floor debate, in which Reid and the Democrats yet again closed off the amendment process, seems to have rubbed the last nerve of the already irascible McCain over the decline of the once-proud institution of the Senate, and the fecklessness of Congress in the face of the urgent crisis at the border, about which McCain, Jeff Flake and other border-state Senators and Congressmen and Congresswomen are plainly getting an earful from the folks back home. I recommend you watch the first 9:46 of this tirade, which is positively cinematic in McCain’s pleading with Reid and Dick Durbin to recall the way the Senate used to be, and how it doesn’t have to be this way, and what that …read more