In December 2010 I wrote a blog post criticizing Harry Reid for joining a Republican filibuster. I also criticized the media for ignoring this fact. It was the fifth post on my blog. Unfortunately, my editorial rested on my misunderstanding of the rules of the Senate.
As I was researching the filibuster of Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, I found this sentence an article at the New York Times.
“Because of parliamentary rules, Mr. Reid voted with Republicans to allow him to bring the Hagel nomination back for another vote. Counting Mr. Reid, Mr. Hagel was actually just one vote shy of the 60 needed.”
The Washington Post says something similar.
“Reid changed his vote to no so that he could use parliamentary rules to quickly reconsider the nomination when the Senate returns from its Presidents Day break Feb 25.”
Wonkblog at the Washington Post provided the most detailed explanation for Reid’s actions.
“As Sarah Binder, a Senate rules expert at George Washington University, told me, it’s not that the majority leader has to vote no. It’s that somebody on the winning side of the cloture vote — in this case, the side voting against cloture — has to file a “motion to reconsider” if the matter is to be taken up again. “I suppose the broader parliamentary principle here is that it would be somewhat unfair to give someone on the losing side of a question a second bite at the apple,” Binder explains. So the rules provide for senators whose opinion has changed to motion for another vote, whereas those whose opinion stays the same don’t get to keep filing to reconsider.
Reid, and other majority leaders before him, have developed a clever workaround: Just change your vote at the last minute if it looks as though you’re going to lose, then move to reconsider. In theory, any supporter of the bill or nomination in question could do the same, but traditionally it’s been the majority leader.”
I am still somewhat confused by the unnecessary mind-boggling Byzantine complexity of the rules of the senate. However, I do understand that Reid joins Republican filibusters not because he is against passing the bill (or confirmation) in question at the time. He joins the filibuster because doing so allows him to pass the bill (or confirmation) as quickly as possible.
The hypocrisy of writing an editorial based on a falsehood, on a blog that was at the time mostly devoted to factchecking, is not lost on me. I conducted research to understand Reid’s motivations at the time, and came up empty. The implied falsehood in my editorial that Reid opposed funding health care for 9/11 first-responders was based upon a misunderstanding of the topic. I was not attempting to deceive anyone. Nevertheless, I am leaving my original post as evidence of my fallibility and ignorance.
Post Script: The Senate should change its rules to allow for the Senate majority leader to bring a vote to reconsider a filibuster as soon as they wish without having to vote against something they support.
I really thought I had found a scandalous fact everyone else was ignoring. I suppose it is a good thing only 7 people read that post. I also put false information on the internet without someone correcting me. That is disappointing indeed.