How VP Harris can sideline Moscow Mitch has been shared across the internet. If you have not read that article, read that first, then come back and join us.
Most people are concerned with the argument of “if it was that easy to hamstring the Senate Majority Leader, don’t you think Vice President Biden would’ve done it back in 2016. Biden was President of the Senate and Republicans were refusing to bring up the Garland nomination.”
Well, no. By that point, McConnell was already recognized with priority recognition. It was too late. VP Biden could have possibly rescinded the recognition but that is hardly something Biden would have done. It was assumed that Trump would not win the nomination and Garland would be confirmed under a Clinton presidency. Why would Biden “blow up” tradition. The entire world was under the assumption that a grotesque TV star had no chance at the Oval Office.
Couldn’t VP Harris overruled by simple majority?
The other argument of why this wouldn’t work is that if Vice President Harris attempted to overrule the chamber’s precedents unilaterally – in this case by ignoring the Majority Leader’s priority recognition – she’d be overruled pretty much immediately by the Senate majority.
The Senate Rules Committee has jurisdiction over the internal management of the rules of the Senate. The rules currently say that the VP selects whomever they wish. The standing rule is that VP Harris makes the selection. Although it is tradition, it is not a rule to recognize the Majority Leader. Since it is a standing rule, it would not be subject to an appeal but a rule change. Those standing orders of the Senate that continue in effect unless altered or abolished have also usually been established by the adoption of simple resolutions. A super majority is needed.
Making a new Senate rule
The Senate would need to introduce a new rule indicating that the current rule, where the Majority Leader has priority recognition. That rule would then need to voted on. When the presiding officer rules on a question of order, any Senator who disagrees with the ruling may challenge it. That Senator rises and states, “Mr. President, I appeal from the decision of the Chair.” Such an appeal typically is debatable, though the Senate may end the debate and dispose of the appeal by agreeing to a motion to table (or kill) it, which would uphold the ruling of the chair. Absent a successful motion to table, debate on the appeal usually is subject to extended consideration under the regular rules of the Senate.
When the Senate is operating under cloture, however, appeals are to be decided without debate, pursuant to Rule XXII (paragraph 2). In addition, debate on an appeal may also be limited in certain situations when provisions of a unanimous consent agreement limit consideration of the underlying matter, and debate of appeals made during consideration of certain budgetary measures is limited by caps on consideration of the measure (pursuant to provisions of the Budget Act).
After any debate on the appeal, the Senate votes on whether “the decision of the Chair will stand as the judgment of the Senate.” Senators who support the ruling vote “aye”; those who oppose it vote “no.” Appeals usually are decided by simple majority vote
The nuclear option is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override a standing rule of the Senate. This is often used to override the 60-vote rule to close debate, by a simple majority of 51 votes. The option is invoked when the senator with priority recognition NOT the majority leader raises a point of order. McConnell is not the Senator with priority recognition. The presiding officer does not need to deny the point of order based on Senate rules. The ruling of the chair is not appealed and can’t be overturned by majority vote.
As Mitch McConnell will gladly tell you, tradition is not written rule. Those rules, he can not simply change.