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Democrats Have Reduced Senate to a Rubber Stamp of the Obama Administration

Nov 21 2013

U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, today spoke on the Senate floor against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) use of the nuclear option to radically change the rules of the U.S. Senate.

Audio and video of Senator Roberts’ floor speech is here.

The following is text of the Senator’s prepared remarks:

“Mr. President, under the rules of this body, it takes 67 votes to end debate on a rules change.  As a continuing body, our rules carry on from one Congress to the next - or at least they used to - and can only be changed pursuant to those rules. 

“Our rules have always ensured a voice for the minority in this body. Unlike the House, where a simple majority has the power to impose a rule change at any time, in the Senate the minority has always been protected. Here, the rules protect the minority and cannot be changed without their consent.

“Unless, of course, the majority decides it wants to break the rules to change the rules. 

“That is what happened today.

“Mr. President, the Washington Post reported the other day that President Obama’s approval rating has hit a record low. His disapproval rating has hit 55 percent, the worst of his presidency. 

“This is obviously the result of the disastrous roll out of Obamacare which has caused Americans to question both the President’s trustworthiness and his basic competence. 

“You would think, in light of these developments, that my friends on the other side of the aisle might be reconsidering the wisdom of some of their past decisions. 

“You would hope it would occur to them that maybe it was a mistake to pass a healthcare reform bill on a straight party line vote – on Christmas Eve. 

“You might expect them to have some doubts about the competence of this Administration, as most Americans clearly do.

“And if it dawned on them that maybe now might be the right time to reassert Congressional authority to reign in and redirect the Administration, you would think they would be using the power of this Senate to move the Administration in a different direction.

“Well, I’m sorry to say, that hasn’t happened.

“Instead, in the face of the obvious failures of this President, and his plummeting approval ratings, the majority has decided it would be a really good idea to GIVE HIM MORE POWER.

“That’s right – the majority thinks our biggest problem is that the President just can’t do whatever he wants and we should change our rules to allow him to do that. 

“That is incredible. 

“The majority has permanently undermined this body, robbed it of a vital tool to check the untrammeled authority of this or any other president, so this sinking ship of an Administration can make whatever appointments it wants.

“What a tragedy.

“You know, Mr. President, in Kansas, when you walk old ghost towns, you will often see buildings where nothing remains but the façade. Literally, the entire building is gone and all that is left is the façade. To prevent that façade from collapsing, you may see beams propping it up.

“In recent weeks, this Administration has been exposed as a façade.  It still looks nice at first glance – the slick campaign style appearances go on as usual – but when you look behind it you see that there is nothing there. 

“It cannot perform the most basic tasks. It cannot even fulfill the responsibilities it has assigned to itself. 

“It is collapsing.

“So now we, the Senate, are going to prop it up. 

“The United States Senate, the world’s greatest deliberative body, has been reduced to a prop. 

“We have reduced ourselves to rubber stamps, forfeited our historical and constitutional authority to subject Presidential appointments to advice and consent, so this Aministration can do whatever it wants. 

“What a tragedy.

“Never has so much been given for so little. 

“We have permanently undermined this body, FOR WHAT? 

“So this President can appoint a few more judges?  And stack the DC Circuit who oversees the constitutionality of federal regulations? Yes, Obamacare regs, IRS regs, EPA regs.

“It is unbelievable.

“What happened today will surely lead to complete control of this institution by the majority.

“Do not listen to those who would seek to minimize the importance of what has been done here. 

“The claim that what they have done is limited – applying only to executive nominations – misses the point.

“The change itself is less important than the manner in which it was imposed. Once you assume the power to write new rules with a simple majority vote – to ignore the existing rules that require a supermajority to achieve such a change – you have put us on a path that will surely lead to total control of this body by the majority.

“Before today, there was only one house of Congress where the majority has total control. 

“Now there are two.

“We have become the House.

“By its action today, the majority has ensured, for years to come, that Members will not have any rights beyond those which the majority is willing to grant. 

“When he was in the minority, our current Majority Leader recognized this himself.

“In The Good Fight, Senator Reid wrote about the battle over the nuclear option in 2005. 

“This is what he wrote –

“‘once you opened that Pandora’s box, it was just a matter of time before a Senate leader who couldn’t get his way on something moved to eliminate the filibuster for regular business as well.  And that, simply put, would be the end of the United States Senate.’

 “Senator Reid further wrote –

“‘there will come a time when we will all be gone, and the institutions that we now serve will be run by men and women not yet living, and those institutions will either function well because we’ve taken care of them, or they will be in disarray and someone else’s problem to solve.’

“He described the nuclear option this way then –

“‘In a fit of partisan fury, they were trying to blow up the Senate.  Senate rules can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, or sixty seven Senators.  The Republicans were going to do it illegally with a simple majority, or fifty one….  Future generations be damned.’

“If only TODAY the Majority Leader had recalled his own words. 

“Instead, by his own hand, he has brought on the end of the United States Senate as we know it.

“Instead of taking care of this institution, he will leave it in disarray – future generations be damned.    

“Our former Parliamentarian, Bob Dove, and Richard Arenberg , a professor and one time aide to former Majority Leader George Mitchell, wrote a book on this subject – Defending the Filibuster. 

“This is what they said –

“‘If a 51-vote majority is empowered to rewrite the Senate’s rules, the day will come, as it did in the House of Representatives, when a majority will construct rules that give it near absolute control over amendments and debate.  And there is no going back from that.  No majority in the House of Representatives has or ever will voluntarily relinquish that power in order to give the minority a greater voice in crafting legislation.’

“Do not be fooled by those who would try to minimize the impact of what happened today. 

“The rule change itself is less important than the manner in which it was imposed.

“Now that the majority has decided it can set the rules, there is no limit to what it, or any future majority, might do in the future.

“There are no constraints.

“The majority claims these changes are necessary to make the Senate function.

“If it decides further changes are needed – it will make them.

“The minority will have no voice. 

“No say.

“No power.

“That has never been the case in the Senate.


“Until now. 

“It saddens me that we have come to this point. 

“It saddens me that Members on the other side of the aisle who should know better have taken this course.

“We have done permanent damage to this institution and set a precedent that will surely allow future majorities to further restrict the rights of the minority. 

“That is not a threat, it is just a fact.

“We have weakened this body, permanently undermined it, for the sake of this incompetent Administration. 

“What a tragedy.

“This is a sad day Mr. President. 

“When the future generations we have damned by today’s action look back and wonder, “Why are things in such disarray?  When did it go wrong?  When did the demise of the Senate begin?” the answer will be: 

“Today – November 21, 2013.”

  • 11/21/13 -
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