By: Brian Sikma
On Thursday the flawed comprehensive immigration reform bill that was before the Senate failed to receive enough votes to proceed to a final vote. A benchmark of 60 votes was needed to move the bill forward and the final vote tally was 46-53, with the majority voting against amnesty. Several senators switched their votes after hearing from thousands of constituents who urged them to abandon a bill that rewards law breakers. At one point, the U.S. Senate switchboard was shut down because of the thousands of phone calls pouring into Senate offices.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) spoke after the bill’s demise and said that “the big winner today was obstruction.” In a way this is ironic since Sen. Reid, his party, and their weak Republican allies such as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), tried to force this bill through the Senate under streamlined procedures. The whole atmosphere of debate that surrounded this legislation obstructed the ability of constituents, policy analysts and even fellow senators to have a full say in what the bill contained.
If any obstruction took place, it was the people obstructing the ability of Senate Old Guards to ram legislation through a procedure that minimized accountability and clarity. That’s the kind of obstruction Washington could use more of.
In some of the “after action” commentary that has been going on, some have pointed out the growing group of young, conservative senators joined forces with the handful of older conservative stalwarts in defeating this bill. In this debate older senators tended to be a little more political on this issue while senators such as Coburn, DeMint, and Thune aggressively stood for principled policy. In the future, when issues as important as immigration reform come up, we need to stand by those senators who are principled even in the face of establishment opposition.