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Reid’s rules: A Senate run by fiat

“We are a nation of laws,” President Obama said after the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial this past weekend. Except when the President and other elected officials don’t like the laws or the rules that constrain their power. Then we’re a nation subject to the whims of those who govern us.

On Tuesday, Republicans in the U.S. Senate agreed to confirm some of President Obama’s executive branch nominees in response to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s threat to change the Senate rules so that presidential nominations to the executive branch could not be filibustered.

The Senate is “broken,” Reid said, so that justifies such extreme measures. Except, it does not. A) the Senate is not broken, as this deal and other deals in the last several years show. B) As Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed out, the Senate rules require a two-thirds vote of the Senate to approve any rule change, and Reid’s plan to change the rules by a simple majority vote equaled running the Senate by fiat.

“I want to change the rule, but not by fiat, not by breaking a rule which says that it takes two thirds of the Senate to end debate on a rules change,” Levin told Politico.

One concession Republicans got in this deal was the withdrawal of two Obama nominees for the National Labor Relations Board — Sharon Block and Richard Griffin — who were appointed to the board unconstitutionally. (The President renominated them after a federal court struck down his appointment of them.) The other is Harry Reid’s word that he won’t violate Senate rules on future nominations. It’s clear what that is worth. The ruling party’s rule-breaking and lawbreaking continues to be rewarded.

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