Sen. Harry Reid: Founding Fathers didn't want filibusters

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday that the men who wrote the Constitution intended for the president's nominees to be subject to only a majority vote, and said filibusters of nominees were never envisioned.

Reid  Associated Press
Associated Press
Reid

The Senate's leading Democrat, who led repeated filibusters of President George W. Bush's nominations when Republicans held the majority, said he's changed his mind since then, and he accused the GOP of forcing his hand by slow-walking so many of President Obama's nominees.

Mr. Reid, of Nevada, said the Constitution only requires supermajority votes for specific circumstances: treaties, impeachments, constitutional amendments and overrides of presidential vetoes. He said everything else should be subject to a majority vote.

"In the same paragraph where the Founding Fathers talked about a supermajority, they mentioned presidential nominations — majority," Mr. Reid said at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. "The Founding Fathers wanted an up-or-down vote, and that's basically what we've been crying for now for years."

Filibusters don't appear in the Constitution, but rather are a term applied to the Senate tradition of extended debate. Until 1917, there was no way to end any debates. But that year, the Senate changed its rules to establish a supermajority to cut off debate.

Final passage of bills and nominations still only requires a majority vote.

Mr. Reid said the Senate is in danger of becoming "obsolete" if it begins to rely on filibusters as much as it has in recent years.

"I love the Senate, but right now the Senate is broken and needs to be fixed," he said.

He has scheduled a series of seven showdown votes for Tuesday morning, and if Republicans try to filibuster block any of the nominees, Mr. Reid has said he has the votes to employ the so-called "nuclear option" and change the rules by majority vote to outlaw some filibusters.


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