Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats have demanded an apology from Rep. Bill Cassidy after he accused Sen. Reid of running the Senate “like a plantation,” but there is at least some truth to the accusation. (RELATED: Harry Reid Really Demands Apology Over Something Hillary Clinton Said)
Since April of last year, Sen. Reid has allowed a vote on just 58 amendments — 30 from the GOP — according to Senate records. The Senate majority leader before him, Republican Sen. Bill Frist, by comparison, held votes on 231 amendments over a comparable time period (April, 2005 through Sept. 9, 2006); and the Senate majority leader before that, Democrat Sen. Tom Daschle, held 174 votes (April, 2001 through Sept. 9, 2002).
“Harry Reid has literally shut down the amendment process,” Brian Phillips, a spokesman for Republican Sen. Mike Lee, told The Daily Caller. “Reid allows at most maybe two or three amendments, mostly no amendments.”
As majority leader, Reid has the power to decide which bills come to the floor — and when — and he also decides which amendments to those bills are debated and voted on. The minority party often relies on the amendment process to make their voice heard and force the majority to take a position on certain points.
But Reid has routinely allowed few or no amendment votes to Republicans, and even to Democrats, by filling the so-called amendment tree. When a bill is brought to the floor, between two and 11 amendments can be debated. But Sen. Reid can offer enough of his own, often inconsequential, amendments for consideration to fill all available spots and effectively block any Republican amendments.
When the Senate considered its version of the National Defense Authorization Act in December, which is a $600 million defense spending bill, Republicans and Democrats submitted more than 500 amendments to the bill. Sen. Reid allowed a vote on just two of those amendments — one from a Republican and one from a Democrat — and neither were adopted.
Republican Sen. John McCain, who’s been in Congress for nearly three decades, said then that he couldn’t remember another time when a bill that size was on the floor and nobody could offer amendments.
In April, Sen. Orrin Hatch blasted other Democrats for allowing Reid’s one-party rule. “One can only wonder what they’re afraid of,” Hatch said. “Presumably, the majority has the votes to defeat any amendments the minority wants to offer. Where’s the harm in having a real debate? Where’s the harm in having an open amendment process?”
“I can only conclude that they’re worried that some of the votes they’d have to take would be difficult politically,” he continued. “Indeed, preventing difficult votes seems to be priority number one for the current Senate majority.”
Reid later defended himself, saying the GOP amendments often have nothing to do with the bill and are aimed at blocking it, not amending it. “There are more than two-dozen amendments on this bill alone dealing with Obamacare, repealing it in different ways,” Reid said, according to the National Journal. “Several other amendments have been singled out that we have before the body to attack the administration’s efforts to protect the environment.”When possible, Republicans often respond to Reid’s tactics by blocking a given bill from coming to a final vote.
“This is what’s causing the gridlock, and he’s stopping the debate,” Phillips told TheDC. “[Democrats] are destroying the fundamental nature of our democracy. It’s all about pure force of will. It’s all about, ‘We are the majority. We will impose our will on the country. Period.'”
Reid did not respond to a request for comment.