In a stunning development Thursday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid D-Nev., resurrected an arcane legislative procedure to change the Senate rules, making it harder for the minority party -- in this case Republicans -- to force procedural votes on controversial amendments after the chamber has voted to move to final passage of a bill.
Reid's initiative passed by a vote of 51-48 and left key Republicans irate.
According to The Washington Examiner, the catalyst for Reid's move came on Tuesday when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to force a vote on President Obama's jobs bill by offering them as amendments to the China currency bill.
The Examiner explains:
Tonight, McConnell made what's called a "motion to suspend the rules," to allow a vote on the amendments. Such motions are almost always defeated, because they require a two-thirds majority to pass. But they're another way for the minority party to force uncomfortable votes. Even though the minority party doesn't get a direct vote on the amendment, how somebody votes on the motion becomes a sort of proxy for such a vote. In this case, for instance, if Democrats had voted down a motion for a vote on Obama's jobs bill, it would have put them in an awkward spot.
Though it's been the standing practice of the Senate to allow such motions by the minority, tonight Reid broke with precedent and ruled McConnell's motion out of order, and was ultimately backed up by Democrats.
So, the end result is that by a simple majority vote, Reid was able to effectively rewrite Senate rules making it even harder than it already is for the minority party to force votes on any amendments. Should Republicans retake the Senate next year, it's something that could come back to haunt Democrats in a major way.
The Examiner makes certain to note, however, that Reid's move on Thursday is different than a similar sounding measure dubbed the "nuclear option," which is used to end filibusters:
While triggering the "nuclear option" requires a Majority Leader to use the same sort of strategic maneuvers as Reid just did, tonight's move had to do with the amendment process, not filibusters.