78-16: Watered-Down Rules Reform Passes the Senate

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 01: U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) (R) holds a press conference with U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) (L) and U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) (C) at the U.S. Capitol March 1, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

A bipartisan agreement and a few sad statements from reformers effectively ended the great filibuster battle of 2013. Shortly after 8 p.m., senators headed back to work, ready to approve the two-part package agreed upon after so much agita.

There was a small delay. Sen. Mitch McConnell opened the debate by asking the chair to recognize Sen. Mike Lee, the freshman from Utah who often takes point when Republicans want to declare something unconstitutional. Lee proposed an amendment to the package to “protect” the Senate. Reid allowed himself a scoff, and the arriving senators killed the amendment with a voice vote. On to the rules votes (the package was split into two parts), and the overwhelming approval.

It happened quickly, with a crop of mostly-new Republicans voting against the rules. They were:

Mike Crapo
Ted Cruz
Jeff Flake
Orrin Hatch
Dean Heller
Ron Johnson
Mike Lee
Rand Paul
Jim Risch
Marco Rubio
Tim Scott
Jeff Sessions
Richard Shelby
Pat Toomey
David Vitter

One full third of the conference had opposed the rule change, including the entire delegations from Alabama, Idaho, and Utah. Paul provided the only statement on the vote that could possibly cheer Democrats.

Tonight, Senate Democrats succeeded in seriously weakening the greatest deliberative legislative body in the world. The rules change limits the ability of Senators to offer amendments, stifles debate, and greases the skids for Democrats to implement more of their tax-and-spend agenda. For these reasons, I voted no.

The only non-Republican “no” came from Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders. As he voted no, mountainous Sen. Jon Tester accidentally blocked his way back to the floor. “You’re blocking my vote!” said Sanders, mugging. “It’s unconstitutional!”