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Chaos in the Senate over sudden rules change! Is this the end of the tail wagging the dog?

In an effort to lessen Republican obstructionism, Democrats pushed through a SUDDEN CHANGE in the arcane rules of the U.S. Senate last night, thereby arousing the ire of Minority Leader Mitch McConnel and his GOP colleagues:

In a shocking development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) triggered a rarely used procedural option informally called the “nuclear option” to change the Senate rules.

Reid and 50 members of his caucus voted to change Senate rules unilaterally to prevent Republicans from forcing votes on uncomfortable amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.

Reid’s coup passed by a vote of 51-48, leaving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fuming.

The surprise move stunned Republicans, who did not expect Reid to bring heavy artillery to what had been a humdrum knife fight over amendments to China currency legislation. 

The Democratic leader had become fed up with Republican demands for votes on motions to suspend the rules after the Senate had voted to limit debate earlier in the day.

There’s a less dramatic slant on the matter HERE:

All day — and really all week — Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have been involved in a procedural jousting match. McConnell’s goal has been to embarrass Democrats — to force a vote of some kind on the jobs bill President Obama sent to Congress weeks ago, and watch it go down in flames. Reid’s goal has been to thwart McConnell, and to call his own vote in the coming days on a modified version of Obama’s bill with broader caucus support. That will help Democrats make the case that Republicans alone stand in the way of the American Jobs Act.

Mostly this was about positioning. McConnell wants a version — any version — of the Obama jobs bill to fail with bipartisan opposition. He wants to upset Reid’s efforts to draw a sharp contrast between the parties over jobs. Knowing that Republicans will filibuster all versions of Obama’s jobs bills, Reid wants to make it clear in the public mind that it’s the GOP that’s preventing a bold jobs package from moving forward.

THIS VIEW, too, is less sensationalistic:

What happened in the Senate tonight bears some strong similarities to what observers have come to think of as the “nuclear option,” but there have been no changes to the rules that would really eliminate or in any way seriously constrain the use of the filibuster.

Here’s what did happen. The Senate is in the middle of considering the anti-currency manipulation bill. Meanwhile, the Republicans want very much to get out from under the rhetorical charge, leveled by the president, that they were blocking the Congress from having a vote on the American Jobs Act. So Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed attaching the AJA to the currency bill through the amendment process, thereby giving the AJA a vote and freeing them from the president’s charge.

The problem with that, though, is that many Democratic senators had enough problems with the AJA that they wanted to consider at least a few amendments to the bill as it now stands, and having a quickie vote on it in the form of an amendment to a completely different bill doesn’t really allow for that. In other words, adding the AJA as an amendment is a way to force Democrats into the embarrassing position of opposing the AJA in its unamended form. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered in response to drop the currency bill temporarily and instead take up the AJA as a free-standing bill, but Republicans had no interest in actually allowing that, and blocked it.

 

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