Former Sen. Harry Reid: It's Time Senate Democrats Abolish the Filibuster Then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks at Cheyenne High School on Oct. 23, 2016, in North Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
By Peter Malbin | Wednesday, 08 September 2021 01:40 PM
Former Sen. Harry Reid is calling for the abolition of the filibuster. In a guest column for the Las Vegas Sun, the former Senate majority leader writes that "having a majority in the Senate does not translate into the ability to pass legislation."
The Nevada Democrat says an arcane Senate rule, the filibuster, imposes a 60-vote threshold on the majority of legislation, allowing just one senator of the minority party to effectively block any and all progress by simply sending an email indicating their opposition to a bill.
"Our framers envisioned the Senate as a deliberative body where the issues of the day could receive thoughtful consideration, and where a simple majority was needed to conduct most business. What we have today is a gridlocked body where there’s more obstruction than debate," Reid writes.
According to Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has exploited and weaponized the filibuster, turning it into a tool to stifle President Joe Biden’s legislative priorities.
"Today, the Senate is no longer a deliberative body, but rather a legislative graveyard where the minority rules and bills that we as a country desperately need go to die," Reid writes.
He says many Nevadans are wondering why Congress has not passed a "whole host of laws" that would further Democrat priorities, even though Democrats won control of Congress in the last election.
"All through 2021, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a flurry of legislation that would concretely improve the lives of Nevadans," Reid writes, adding that this flurry includes the PRO Act, which he says is "the most pro-worker, pro-union legislation in generations;" the Equality Act, which would protect the fundamental rights of LGBTQ people; and the For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would standardize voting laws across the country.
These items of legislation, as well as "meaningful" action on climate change, gun violence, and immigration reform are "unfortunately" blocked by the filibuster, Reid argues.
"In 2013, while serving as majority leader of the Senate, I made the decision to support a change to the Senate’s rules to get rid of the filibuster on most presidential nominations. The decision was not easy but I made it because Senate Republicans’ brazen, unchecked obstruction left me no other choice.
"We face that same choice today," Reid contends. "Just as he did in President Obama’s first term with nominations, Mitch McConnell and his fellow far-right Republicans are again making clear that they will stop at nothing to steamroll Democratic priorities — even when it means grinding the Senate’s proceedings to a halt.
"The sanctity of the Senate is not the filibuster. The sanctity of the Senate — in government as a whole — is the power it holds to better the lives of and protect the rights of American people. We need to get the Senate working again."
Reid concludes his opinion piece by urging, "It’s time Senate Democrats act with the urgency that this moment demands and abolish the filibuster once and for all."
Reid was elected to the United States Senate in 1986 and held that position from 1987 to 2017. Reid is one of only three senators to have served at least eight years as majority leader.