The Capitol Hill Report

Senate Rules Survive Reid’s Attack

While the President’s State of the Union address dominated the news last week, a battle that will have large implications for the next two years was taking place in the U.S. Senate.

At issue was the Senate filibuster, a well-known but little understood procedural maneuver that allows a minority of Senators to block legislation unless debate is “shut off” by a supermajority—usually sixty votes.

The filibuster has been particularly important to gun owners, as it has been used to stop the leadership of both parties in their efforts to end gun shows and to ban so-called assault weapons.  It has also been used to for such purposes as slowing down (and forcing changes to) legislation to expand the Brady law.

The filibuster was put on the chopping block by anti-gun Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  As someone who prefers to run the Senate more as a dictator than an elected official, the “arcane rule” is a pesky impediment to his socialist agenda.

On the first day the Senate returned to Washington in January, Reid sought to place his own judgment over the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and hundreds of years of precedent.

In a blatant abuse of power, Reid—along with Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO)—argued that the Senate is not a “continuing body” and, therefore, its standing rules could be changed on the first legislative day of the session by a simple vote of fifty Senators (plus Vice President Biden).  If successful, Reid’s plan would end the filibuster entirely in order to ram through whatever legislation he and President Obama wished.

The only way to accomplish this, however, was to throw the entirety of the Senate rules out the window.  Even some of his Democrat colleagues were unwilling to go along with this scheme.  To buy time in which to twist more arms, Reid even used a magic elastic calendar and stretched the first legislative day from January 5 all the way to January 25.

Alone among Second Amendment groups, GOA fought against this rules change.  And we won what may prove to be the most important Senate victory of the next two years—something for which GOA members deserve a lot of credit.

Thankfully, the Senate refused to pull the trigger on Reid’s audacious plan to allow fifty Senators to change its rules and eliminate the filibuster.

The importance of this win cannot be overstated.  Failure would have opened the door, for example, to a host of gun control legislation that typically follows a highly publicized tragedy such as the shooting in Tucson.

GOA members must be braced for many fights in the coming weeks and months.  Already, at least a half-dozen anti-gun bills are being contemplated.  As emotions run high and compromisers hold their fingers in the wind, it will fall to pro-gunners like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) to hold together a minority of Senators willing to fight against the gun control agenda of the President and his allies in the Congress.

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