In a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday, Senator Lamar Alexander called on Democratic Leader Harry Reid to allow debate and amendments on legislation in the New Year, saying the Senate “needs a change in behavior, not a change of the rules” in order to address the nation’s major concerns, such as high unemployment and Obamacare.
Senator Alexander’s remarks follow a decision by Democrats in the Senate majority to invoke the so-called nuclear option, getting rid of the filibuster for presidential nominations so it only requires 51 votes – instead of 60 – to end debate on nominees, except in the case of the U.S. Supreme Court. Senator Reid has followed this move – which he once wrote would be “the end of the Senate” – by moving legislation to the Senate floor without committee consideration and cutting off debate, amendments and votes.
“Fixing the Senate doesn’t require a change of the rules. It requires a change of behavior,” Senator Alexander said. “Some behavior on our part…but a great deal of behavior on the part of whomever the majority leader of the United States Senate is, because that is the person who sets the agenda. And the debate for this year really is: Will this year be the end of the United States Senate?”
Senator Alexander said that in their book “The American Senate: An Insider’s History,” Neil MacNeil and Richard A. Baker, the former historian of the Senate, cited the Senate as “one touch of authentic genius in the American political system” because of its role of extended debate in building consensus and guarding against excesses by the majority party or the president.
Senator Alexander continued, “Serving in the Senate today is like being invited to join the Grand Ole Opry and not being allowed to sing. The people of Tennessee expect me to have an opinion, on their behalf, about Obamacare, about Iran, about how to help unemployed Americans get a job, about the minimum wage or the lack of it.”