Democrats appear to be in disarray heading into tomorrow’s long-awaited showdown over the Senate filibuster. Unable to unify his caucus on a specific set of rule changes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is likely to delay the matter until the end of January.
Now one of Reid’s own allies -- Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson -- is undermining the left’s key argument about changing the Senate’s filibuster rule. It comes in the form of an article featured prominently on the Senate.gov homepage, which is controlled by Erickson.
Democrats have argued that on the first day of the 112th Congress they can amend Senate rules with 51 votes as opposed to the traditional two-thirds. The left’s argument hinges on whether the Senate is a “continuing body.” Liberals argue it’s not. They say that gives the majority the means -- just like the U.S. House -- to rewrite the rules.
But according to the official Senate.gov website, that’s not the case. That’s significant because Erickson is a Democrat, chosen by Reid and elected by senators. She’s held the job since Jan. 4, 2007, when Democrats took control of the U.S. Senate.
The information posted on Senate.gov about the 112th Congress states bluntly: “The Senate does not have to reorganize itself each new Congress.”
Article 1, section 3 of the Constitution provides a system of staggered six-year terms for senators. At the conclusion of each two-year congress, the terms of only one-third of the 100 senators expire, allowing two-thirds of the senators to continue serving without interruption. As a consequence, the Senate is a continuing body, which allows the Senate to make any changes in its leadership, or to change committee assignments prior to opening day.
The language was spotted by Steven Duffield, policy director at Crossroads GPS. He mentioned it at a Heritage Foundation panel discussion following a speech by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).
With a showdown over the filibuster looming, it appears Democrats have some work to do. They might want to begin by taking a look at the Senate.gov homepage -- and then talking to the secretary of the Senate.