It’s ironic that in 2005, when the Democrats were the minority in the Senate, Harry Reid said it was illegal to change the filibuster rules:
For people to suggest that you can break the rules to change the rules is un-American. The only way you can change the rule in this body is through a rule that now says, to change a rule in the Senate rules to break a filibuster still requires 67 votes. You can’t do it with 60. You certainly cannot do it with 51. But now we are told the majority is going to do the so-called nuclear option. We will come in here, having the Vice President seated where my friend and colleague from Nevada is seated. The Parliamentarian would acknowledge it is illegal, it is wrong, you can’t do it, and they would overrule it. It would simply be: We are going to do it because we have more votes than you. You would be breaking the rules to change the rules. That is very un-American.
“The majority can’t get what they want so they break the rules to change the rules. We believe the traditions of the Senate should be maintained. We believe if you are going to change the rules in the Senate, change them legally, not illegally.
“They are talking about doing something illegal. They are talking about breaking the rules to change the rules, and that is not appropriate. That is not fair, and it is not right.
He doesn’t stop there:
The Senate is a body of moderation. While the House is the voice of a single man, single woman, and the House of Representatives is a voice of the majority, the Senate is the forum of the States. It is the saucer that cools the coffee. It is the world’s greatest deliberative body. How will we call this the world’s greatest deliberative body after the majority breaks the rules to silence the minority? Breaking the rules to change the rules.
Ultimately, this is about removing the last check in Washington against complete abuse of power, the right to extended debate.
If the nuclear option is successful, it will turn the Senate into a body that could have its rules broken at anytime by a majority of Senators unhappy with any position taken by the minority. It begins with judicial nominations. Next will be executive appointments. And then, legislation.
The Senate is being asked to turn itself inside out; to ignore the precedents, to ignore the way our system has worked, the delicate balance we have obtained that has kept this Constitutional system going — for the immediate gratification of the present President.
a change in the Senate rules would change the character of the Senate forever. And what I worry about would be that you would essentially still have two chambers in the House and the Senate, but you would have, simply, majoritarian absolute power on either side, and that’s just not what the founders intended
And Joe Biden:
The nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab. I say to my friends on the Republican side: you may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. And I pray God that when the Democrats take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.
Ah…the irony. As President of the Senate he will be the one who makes it happen if they follow through with their nuclear option.
And now Obama is fully supporting Reid’s “illegal” changes:
The President has said many times that the American people are demanding action,” White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement to The Huffington Post. “They want to see progress, not partisan delay games. That hasn’t changed, and the President supports Senator Reid’s efforts to reform the filibuster process.
This isn’t reform, this is “breaking the rules to change the rules”
[Reid] no longer recognizes—as Senator Byrd did, by the way—that ‘the Senate was not established to be efficient,’ but ‘to make sure that minorities are protected. Then, my friend recognized ‘that is what the Senate is all about.’ Now, he says, the primary consideration is ‘efficiency.’
“He seeks to minimize concerns about this majoritarian power-grab by characterizing the effect as ‘tiny,’ as a ‘minor change,’ as changing Senate Rules just ‘a little bit.’”
I think Senator Baucus said it best in 2005, when the Democrats opposed breaking the rules to change the rules:
This is the way democracy ends. Not with a bomb, but with a gavel.