Viewpoint: Senate is ready for change

Danny Huizinga | Guest Columnist
Danny Huizinga | Guest Columnist
Danny Huizinga | Guest Columnist

By Danny Huizinga
Guest Columnist

FiveThirtyEight, the poll-ranking data machine run by Nate Silver, currently gives Republicans a 64.6 percent chance of winning the majority in the United States Senate.

I hope the prediction is right.

Though Republicans have built a sizable majority in the House of Representatives, taking the Senate has remained elusive. Their improved chances this year result from dissatisfaction with the president’s policies and general malaise toward Congress in general.
Voters are upset that things “aren’t getting done,” and the most obvious culprit is Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Democratic majority leader of the Senate.

The Senate only allows a select number of amendments on each bill, and it is customary to allow the majority leader to present amendments first. Reid is a frequent user of the “fill the tree” tactic – which basically means that he proposes so many inconsequential amendments that no one else can propose any.

It’s not just an attack on Republicans either. Reid routinely blocks amendments sponsored by Democrats, just to prevent senators from having to vote on tough issues.

Brian Darling, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, reports that Reid has used this tactic more than the Majority Leaders of the past 20 years combined.

No amendments can be passed, so negotiations cannot be effective without Reid’s approval. This results in gridlock and a Senate that barely passes bills. For example, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been using the hashtag #StuckinSenate to draw attention to 46 jobs bills passed by the House that have not seen a vote in the Senate.

Reid also continues to block a vote on a bill that would allow the Keystone XL Pipeline. The pipeline would create more than 40,000 jobs, according to a report by the State Department. Despite support for the pipeline by a bipartisan group of 56 senators and a solid majority of likely voters, Reid won’t budge.

“The reason the majority leader will not allow amendments is because he wants to protect his members from actually being held accountable by the voters of the United States of America,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., on the Senate floor this summer.

But even Democratic senators are starting to get upset. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, under pressure in a tough battle to retain his seat this November, said in July, “I’ve told Senator Reid more than once that we can’t keep up this gridlock of voting on final bills without considering amendments.”

There are some senators who have not been allowed to have a vote on their amendments since they were elected six years ago. It’s time for that to change.

The beginning of a Washington Post article last May began: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sat down with NBC’s Chuck Todd for a wide-ranging interview about the world’s greatest deliberative body, the Koch brothers and, yes, even the Washington Redskins.”
It seems that Reid has been spending a lot more time on the last two items and not enough on the first.

It looks like the country is finally ready for a change.

Danny Huizinga is a senior Baylor Business Fellow from Chicago. He is a guest columnist for the Lariat. Follow him on Twitter @HuizingaDanny.