After the biggest loss for his party since the 1940's, Politico reports that Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats are working feverishly through the recess to introduce a filibuster reform package when the Senate reconvenes next week.  Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, long a vocal critic of the current rules, went so far as to claim that the filibuster has, "stood democracy on its head."  Despite the hyperbole and howling from Harkin and others, the facts tell a different story.

Under the current rules, Reid and his slim 53-vote majority no longer have the clout to ram through massively unpopular legislation like ObamaCare and the $800-billion "stimulus" that we saw in the last Congress.  In response, they now plan to ram through an odious rule change so they can continue to pass massively unpopular legislation despite the rejection of their policies in the last election.  This is a naked power grab, pure and simple.

The Senate Democrats are putting a lot of emphasis on the belief that rule changes on the first legislative day require only a simple majority instead of the normal 60 votes that would be required to break a filibuster on the filibuster rule itself.  However, the truth is that the Senate can change its rules in this manner at any time. When Republicans raised this possibility over judicial appointments, Democrats blasted it as the "nuclear option." Now Democrats are calling it "reform."

According to a report commissioned by Congress during the 2005 debate over the "nuclear option," the filibuster rule has long been an essential component of Senate procedure:

Senate rules historically have embodied the belief that wise policy is not determined simply by counting votes, but that it emerges from a process of free debate in which individual Senators enjoy great latitude and during which the intensity of minority interests can be weighed and accommodated. As a result, the Senate's rules define a legislative process that emphasizes the importance of compromise and that strains for consensus whenever possible.

Ironically, the Democrats are pushing for "reform" along purely partisan lines of an institution originally designed to encourage consensus. Prior to 1917, even a handful of Senators could block passage of legislation through a "talking" filibuster.  In the face of a threat to suspend the Senate rules and revert to the simple majority of general parliamentary procedure to end debate, the Senate created the cloture rule by a margin of 76-3, thus allowing a supermajority of Senators to end debate.

Throughout the past century, the cloture rule has been modified numerous times in response to abuses of the practice by the minority party. However, with each new "reform," the use of the filibuster has only increased. Particularly in the past 30 years, the filibuster has stood as the last and best defense against the overwhelming expansion of government that now intrudes into the daily lives of American citizens on an unprecedented scale.

Even so, as we saw with the debate over health care reform, the filibuster usually only delays passage of unpopular legislation. Despite the increasing use of the filibuster, the trend of ever-increasing Congressional power continues unabated. Federal government spending increased from 31% of GDP in 1970 to more than 43% of GDP in 2010. By weakening the ability of the minority—regardless of party—to block or at least delay unpopular legislation, the growth of uncontrolled spending and bloated government will only accelerate until the country is driven to ruin.