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National Review

Democrats flirt with destroying another Senate defense

Senate Democrats considering the destruction of another set of Senate rules may want to hear the words of English lawyer and chancellor Sir Thomas More to his son-in-law centuries ago: And when the last law was overthrown and the Devil turned on you where would you delete them, Roper, the laws are all flat? Then-Senator Harry Reid began this modern-day clean-up of the rules back in 2013. He used the nuclear option to lower the confirmation vote threshold in order to decide the DC District Court of Appeal. Senator Mitch McConnell was escalated using the same standard to confirm Supreme Court nominees. While majority leader Chuck Schumer plays with the idea of ​​blowing up the legislative filibuster as well, he is potentially willing to first unveil another important Senate rule, less well known, in pursuit of a comprehensive bill of COVID facilitation under budget compliance terms. We were talking about the Byrd Rule (named after the late Senator Robert Byrd), which limits the majority’s ability to fill out legislative externalities on budget-related proposals and still pass them by a simple majority vote under that process. Senator Byrd saw the risk of using reconciliation, which limits change and debate, to pursue broader, non-budgetary legislation outside the regular order. As a defender of the right of all senators to debate and amend legislation, he placed these restrictions on the reconciliation process. This is for the greater good: The Byrd Rule protects Social Security from the conciliation process, for example, while limiting commissions to proposals in their jurisdiction and requires that the budget importance of any proposal considered in this process be greater than just random. What this means is that major legislative policy changes can only be made when all senators have the right to fully debate and change legislation and create more information. Reconciliation otherwise modernizes this process at the expense of the minority. Today, driven by anger and revenge, Senate leaders care nothing about the reasons behind the rules; they just want to pass their legislation as soon as possible. Much of the attention in recent weeks has gone to the $ 15 minimum wage contained in the COVID relief package. This hardly meets the standard of reconciliation on its own, but there will be other violations of the Byrd Rule in the bill that the House will send to the Senate. That’s why Senate Democrats may intend to break the glass in Senate rules. As described by parliamentary expert Martin Gold, there are two ways to achieve this. First, there is the most targeted attack on the Byrd Rule. Say Vice President Harris is in the chair when a senator raises an order point against, for example, raising the minimum wage. The Senate MP advises him that this particular part of the reconciliation bill is out of order. Despite all the evidence and precedents that the section is out of order, the VP arranges differently. Now the section gets just a simple majority to cross. However, if a senator supporting Byrd Rule challenges the chair decision, it will take a 60-vote majority to oust Harris. This is a top bar. So here, the presiding judge, which would likely stand, changes the precedent so that any other issue in the bill that violates the Byrd Rule can be deemed admissible under the new standard set only by the vice president. Republicans would have liked this when they were trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act, but they respected Senate rules that protected minority rights. This limited and surgical strike on the Byrd Rule would still break the ongoing precedent. Meanwhile, there is a broader attack that can be implemented. In this scenario, the majority leader turns to the chair and says the waiver of the Byrd Rule gets only one simple majority vote. Understandably based on rules and precedents that this is false. If the chairperson decides that 60 votes are required to waive the Byrd Rule, the majority leader appeals the chairperson’s decision, which requires a simple majority vote to be overturned. The Byrd Rule protections are dead from Bingo and now it only takes a simple majority vote to cast any legislative proposal the majority wants in the budget reconciliation bill, bypassing debate and legal change. The result of this action would threaten any rule in the Senate. If at any time the majority wants to get rid of any rule, all it will have to do is appeal the chair decision and convene a simple majority by silencing the opposition and forcing its will on the American people. Once upon a time, the U.S. Senate was called the world’s largest discussion body. As predicted by Thomas Jefferson, there were rules that protected the minority and allowed full debate. Sadly, it seems that this current Senate majority cares little about the precedents that gave the U.S. Senate that title. But some care on their part may be good advice in their own interest; it is known that the tables return. Editor’s Note: This section has been updated with a revised version of the rating attributed to Sir Thomas More.

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