After years of blocking Republicans from offering amendments to key legislation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he hopes Republicans will allow amendments when they run the Senate next year.
Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday that wants an open amendment process right away, starting with a bill to approve the Keystone pipeline. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that bill would come up early next year, after Senate Democrats narrowly defeated it Tuesday.
"I would hope we could have an open amendment process and ample debate on that legislation," Reid said on the floor.
Reid's comments are close to a complete reversal compared to the way he has run the Senate, one that appears to be driven by the minority-party status that Democrats will hold next year. Reid has routinely blocked GOP senators from offering amendments on dozens of bills over the last few years, using a maneuver that blocks Democratic amendments as well.
That practice has essentially shut down the Senate as a legislative body, and turned it into a chamber that mostly rejects or ignores House-passed bills, except for must-pass spending bills or other critical measures.
Reid has stopped consideration of amendments through a process called "filling the tree." In that procedure, Reid fills up all the designated amendment slots with his own token amendments that make tiny changes to the bill, which prevents others from having their own ideas considered when the bill comes up.
That maneuver has often prompted Republicans to vote against even considering legislation, since there's no hope they can make any changes to it.
Over the last several months, some Republicans have tried to block Reid's effort to "fill the amendment tree," by asking for votes to reject that strategy. But each time, Reid has been supported by Democrats.
Late Tuesday night, Reid switched up his strategy by saying he would allow amendment votes on a bill to reform the National Security Agency. But Republicans rejected that offer nonetheless, and said the bill was being needlessly rushed to the floor without even being approved at the committee level.
"That's really wrong," Reid complained Wednesday morning. "Shouldn't we at least be able to debate the issue here on the floor?"