A growing number of U.S. Senate Democrats including Sheldon Whitehouse are pushing hard for their caucus to approve changes to the filibuster early next year that would make it harder for Republicans to block legislation. But Whitehouse’s senior colleague, Jack Reed, still doesn’t sound convinced in this story by The Hill’s Alexander Bolton:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could be short on votes he needs to force changes to the Senate’s filibuster rules, as nine Democratic senators sit on the fence about the proposed reforms. …
Two other senior Democrats, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), have yet to be persuaded. …
“I’m going to work my way through it,” said Reed. “It’s all part of the idea of how you effect change.
“I’m looking at everything,” he said.
Local observers probably won’t be surprised by this. While Reed sounded frustrated about Republicans’ heavy filibustering on “Newsmakers” in late 2010, he didn’t side with Whitehouse’s allies on the actual vote to change the rules two months later. This was my take at the time:
Some of the split can be chalked up to temperament; Reed is a cautious elder statesman type, and though a loyal Democrat, he’s not the most vocal partisan. Whitehouse, on the other hand, is a proud, loud liberal who’s glad to call out the other side.
However, their disagreement may also have something to do with when the two men joined the Senate.
Reed was elected in 1996 after serving in the House, and thus spent almost his entire first decade as a senator in the minority. (Democrats briefly controlled the chamber from mid-2001 through 2002.) He has a clear memory of what it was like to be out of power for an extended period of time, and what it meant to Senate Democrats to have the filibuster available to block Republican initiatives.
Whitehouse was elected in 2006 on a tidal wave of hostility toward the Bush administration, and unlike Reed, he has never served in the minority. So Whitehouse has only known the the frustration of watching Republicans block Democratic initiatives that had the support of a majority of senators, particularly over the last two years. He’s also served in an era when fewer senators cared about the chamber as an institution.
• Related: Reed, Whitehouse split on limiting the filibuster (Jan. 28, 2011)