Gov. Abercrombie appoints Lt Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the seat of the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (photo courtesy Gov. Abercrombie)
Gov. Abercrombie appoints Lt Gov. Brian Schatz to fill the seat of the late U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (photo courtesy Gov. Abercrombie)

Hawaii’s newly appointed U.S. Senator Brian Schatz is supporting a highly controversial proposal called “filibuster reform” that being pushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

The proposal gives Reid final say on all legislation, with three other Senators also having so called “super powers.”

Heritage Foundation experts are calling this legislation “terrible” and maintain it will “turn Majority Leader Harry Reid into a tyrant.”

However, newly appointed U.S. Senator Brian Schatz said he backs the legislation, calling it common-sense measure that will increase Senators ability to do the people’s work.”

In a report today, Heritage outlines the three major problems with the legislation:

  • Instead of needing 60 votes to stop debate on a contentious issue, the Senate would need 51 votes;
  • Four “Super Senators” are the only ones who could offer amendments to legislation;
  • The Majority Leader would be the only one who could add an amendment after debate is finished.

Schatz argues the legislation “protects the right of every member to be heard and the rights of the minority,” while also pushing Senate business along.

“In the past six years there were 391 cloture motions filed; there was just one during the six years during which Lyndon Johnson served as Senate Majority Leader.  This has to change, and the reforms being proposed by Senators Harkin, Lautenberg, Udall, and Merkley are common-sense and will increase our ability to do the people’s work,” Schatz said, maintaining the filibuster system “should continue to be refined.”

But Heritage experts counter the legislation is “dangerous to everyone not represented by Harry Reid” and point out “It’s such a bad idea that even Reid himself argued against similar changes—when he was in the minority.”

The Heritage experts note in 2005, “Reid was a strong defender of the minority party’s right to filibuster legislation and slow the progress of bills” and even then Senator Barack Obama opposed the change.

Reid said then: “One of the good things about this institution we have found in the 214 years it has been in existence is that the filibuster, which has been in existence since the beginning, from the days of George Washington…in all the political writings about filibuster, that is one of the things they talk about as a positive. It forces people to get together because sometimes in this body you become very fixed.”

Then- Senator Barack Obama agreed in 2005: “What [the American people] don’t expect, is for one party, be it Republican or Democrat, to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet…everyone in this chamber knows that if the majority chooses to end the filibuster—if they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate—then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”

But Schatz said in a statement on Wednesday: “This is a matter of great importance both to the Senate and our entire nation as it will impact not just what becomes law during this Congress but what is enacted well into the future.  I take seriously my decision and appreciate the thoughtful efforts in recent years to improve Senate rules.”