Posted on January 5, 2011
By Tony Lee
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), in a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington Tuesday, struck back at Democrats in the Senate who may try to change the Senate rules regarding the filibuster to make it easier for the diminishing number of Democrats to pass liberal pieces of legislation more easily.
Referencing the recent midterm elections in which Americans sent a clear message that they were dissatisfied with Democrats and their liberal agenda, Alexander said Democrats were attempting to change the filibuster rules because “when you lose the game, you change the rules,” and said such rule changes would amount to an “electoral nullification.”
At issue is the speculation that Democrats are serious about changing the Senate rules so that only 51 votes, rather than the 60 currently needed, will end debate, which would essentially eliminate the ability of the minority to block legislation it deems to be harmful. While they had audaciously planned to to make an attempt on the first day of the new Congress, the Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Udall (D-Colo.), may wait a few weeks to try to change the Senate rules.
Alexander, who was a strong voice against ObamaCare during the health-care debate, said, “Democrats are proposing to use the very tactics that in the past almost every Democratic leader has denounced” and said such a change in the rules would change the institution and would amount to a freight train running through the Senate.
Alexander asked whether Democrats, potentially in the minority in two years, would want such a “freight train running through in two years if that freight train is the Tea Party Express.”
Alexander also accused Democrats of trying to turn the Senate into the House of Representatives so they could ram through legislation like they did with ObamaCare.
“The procedure in the Senate takes longer, but produces better results,” Alexander said.
Alexander compared the civil rights legislation that was passed in the 1960s with the health-care legislation passed in a partisan manner by Democrats in the last Congress. Alexander said that, unlike the current health-care law, there wasn’t an institutional clamoring for repeal of the civil rights laws because those laws passed after adhering to Senate protocol.
Alexander paid homage to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), who was the master of the Senate’s intricate rules, emphasizing Byrd’s statement that the Senate, because its members are elected in staggered terms unlike Representatives who are up for re-election every two years, was a “continuing body for open and unlimited debate and allows for protection of minority rights.”
In his last speech in the Senate, Byrd, referring to the filibuster, said, “We must never tear down the only wall against executive branch excesses and the tyranny of the majority.”
Alexander ended his speech with a video montage that began with the fictional Mr. Smith, who was followed by Democrats Robert Byrd, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd and Harry Reid emphatically making their case in the past that the filibuster must be preserved to maintain the integrity of the institution of the Senate.
In one clip, Reid emphatically and ironically states that those who want to do away with the filibuster “want to do away with Mr. Smith . . . they think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.”
When asked what would happen if the Senate somehow did alter the filibuster rules, Alexander responded that the “Senate is too valuable to tamper with; I don’t want to even speculate [on filibuster rules being changed]” before adding that he thought it was unlikely that Democrats would succeed in altering the filibuster rules.