Harry Reid with Richard Durbin.

Alex Brandon | AP Images

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There are few people whom Donald Trump can thank more right now than retiring Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev. (F, 2%). It’s Harry who is responsible for making it much easier to appoint hardcore conservatives to Trump’s cabinet — providing them all an easy path to confirmation.

So consider this an open “Thank You” letter to Harry Reid. Though he thought he was doing Democrats a service in breaking the rules of the Senate, in the end, the retiring senator undermined progressives and engaged in a pre-emptive surrender to all of Trump’s nominees he wishes to appoint to his cabinet.

As we all know, the Constitution grants the Senate the power to advise and consent on all cabinet nominations. In addition, the Constitution empowers the Senate to make its own rules. Well, Harry changed the rules in a way to restrict Republican filibusters on nominations when he was majority leader. But as they say, “What goes around, comes around.” Consequently, the Democrats have few options available to thwart President Trump’s bold agenda.

For that, America should thank Harry.

Yet we are not thanking him because we believe what Harry did was right. We believe his actions were an abuse of power, especially when he stripped the powers of the minority to participate in an honest and open debate regarding the top bureaucrats running the country.

In fact, many believe Harry’s goal was to rid the Senate completely of any filibuster — including the filibuster of legislation. The filibuster is the very purpose of the Senate, with a storied history. It is what provides distinction between senators and the representatives who serve in the People’s House.

So perhaps Republicans would be wise to demonstrate what happens when politicians abuse the powers they are granted: Maybe it’s time for some payback by sweeping through all of Trump’s nominations for the cabinet and the courts, using the rule changes that Harry Reid fought so hard to implement.

Still, Republicans should eventually return the filibuster rule back to what it was intended to represent. Republicans are smart enough to realize we won’t be in power forever. At some point, the Democrats will again run the Senate. The back and forth must end, and ultimately, the minority should have its rights restored for the purpose of securing the privileges the minority deserves.

As you may remember, this all began in 2013. As Politico reported on November 11, 2013 in “Senate goes for ‘nuclear option’”:

The Senate approved a historic rule change on Thursday by eliminating the use of the filibuster on all presidential nominees except those to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Invoking the long-threatened “nuclear option” means that most of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees no longer need to clear a 60-vote threshold to reach the Senate floor and get an up-or-down vote.

The rules are designed to offer the minority the right to provide influence and a voice in the debate — a debate that impacts all Americans. Yet when Republicans utilized their rights to filibuster several of Obama’s nominees, Reid, along with all but three Democrats, voted to set a precedent where only a simple majority is needed to end debate on a nomination.



Then, along came Donald Trump.

Perhaps Harry assumed he would be dealing with a Clinton presidency because ultimately, he removed the one tool that would have allowed his caucus to force moderation among Trump’s political appointees with the filibuster.

The irony in all this is too enjoyable. The Democrats now have to face a man who will appoint anyone but Washington insiders. For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. (C, 78%) was nominated by Trump to be the next attorney general, much to the chagrin of Democrats. Then there’s Betsy DeVos, nominee for the Department of Education — a choice that caused the heads of school unions to explode in rage. But neither compare with Scott Pruitt, attorney general for Oklahoma, and Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. He is known as a “climate denier” and antithetical the agency’s overly zealous mandate to make the world green.

Democrats must be wrecked!

These nominations would have been the subject to the filibuster, and of course, may have possibly failed to be confirmed.

No longer is that the case, thanks to Harry.

Harry Reid’s actions on the filibuster are the true embodiment of the failure to consider the long-term consequences of rash, short-term decisions.

Both parties have flirted with the idea of “filibuster reform” for years. But it was Harry who truly made the term, “nuclear option” common parlance in Washington, D.C. The fact is that the party in power always wants to limit the rights of the minority party, and the minority party always wants the power to force votes, offer amendments, and extend debate on nominations and legislation that they oppose.

The Senate has worked for years as the institution that operates deliberately, and even slowly, by allowing all members the privilege to offer amendments to legislation and to have an opportunity to publicly pursue debate. Restricting the rights of members to extend debate strips the power of individual senators and the minority party as a whole — but it also strips the American people access to what will arise through the nomination process.

So, thank you, Harry Reid. Thank you for future Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Thank you for soon-to-be Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. And thank you for the energy independence warrior that is Scott Pruitt.

Harry Reid’s actions on the filibuster are the true embodiment of the failure to consider the long-term consequences of rash, short-term decisions.

Democrats, the joke is on you.

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Brian Darling is a former staffer for Sen. Rand Paul. Follow him on Twitter @BrianHDarling.

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