So now we know where U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was last Monday during a mandatory Senate meeting on changing the chamber’s rules regarding the filibuster. Her office admitted on Friday that she skipped the meeting to attend her own campaign’s fundraiser in New York City. Priorities, priorities.
Shaheen’s office says she didn’t really miss anything.
“That meeting was designed to allow senators to express their opinions on filibuster reform, and Sen. Shaheen’s position is well-known by her colleagues on this issue. In the past, she has signed multiple letters supporting filibuster reform, wrote and distributed an article on the subject and has attended dozens of meetings and has had numerous discussions with senators from both parties over the years on this issue,” Shaheen spokesman Shripal Shah told our senior political reporter John DiStaso last week.
Fair enough. But that makes Shaheen’s absence worse, not better.
Senate rules allow the filibustering of executive branch nominees. There are people on both sides who think that should change. The meeting Shaheen missed, though, was not to settle that question. It was to decide whether the majority party would do so by violating long-standing Senate rules that protect the minority party.
Senate rules require a two-thirds vote for any rule change. The meeting was to decide whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should allow the filibuster rules to be changed by a simple majority vote, as opposed to the required two-thirds vote. This was too much for even some Democrats, who realize the precedent that would set. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said it would amount to running the Senate by fiat.
By skipping the meeting because her support for “rule reform” (her words) was well-known, Shaheen essentially cast an absentee vote for trampling the rules that protect the rights of the minority party. That, not simply skipping the meeting, is why her constituents should be upset. And should Republicans win the Senate in 2014, it will be interesting to see if Shaheen suddenly decides that “rule reform” is not such a great idea after all.