Just when you thought opinion polls on the U.S. Congress couldnt’ go lower, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, initiated a vote on the “nuclear option” on the Senate Rules.
Basically, the years of precedent requiring a a three-fifths vote and often a two-thirds vote of the senators on some procedural votes can now be overturned with a simple majority. This means that the majority of any party in power can pass any legislation in the Senate. As one Senator put it, this move is “fundamentally turning the Senate into the House”.
Previously, as the result of some failed judicial appointments, GOP Senate Leader Bill Frist flirted with doing this during the Bush Administration, but was pulled back by his fellow Republicans. Many Democrats are fearful of this move since control of the Senate is most likely going to the Republicans during the next election and then the Republican majority could use this same rule to overturn much of the legislation passed by the Obama Administration (It would still require a 2/3 majority to overturn an Obama veto by constitutional mandate.)
The troubling thing about this rule change is reflected in the future character of the Senate. The Senate has always been viewed as the more deliberative body in the U.S. Legislature. This move will make that body more subject to the whims of the moment.
This change will turn the current Senate, which reflects republicanism (the concept not the party) into a more democratic (ditto) form of representation.
Samuel Whiute, a U.S. Senator under Thomas Jefferson wrote, “If ”’ [republicanism] err at all, it is on … the safe side.… [W]hat we have most to fear to our government and our liberties must come … from the licentiousness of democracy. This is what republican governments have forever to guard against; this is the vortex in which they are most likely to be swallowed up. God grant it may never be the case with ours; I fear nothing else.