He maintained that he would prefer to avoid going down the path of changing the rules with a simple majority vote, although he expressed the view that precedent exists to do so. Even that is a point of some contention, with supporters of the idea consistently pointing to advisory opinions made by vice presidents, who serve as presidents of the Senate.
Republican aides say the Senate is a continuing body and therefore its rules continue and cannot be changed by a simple majority vote. However, Democrats contend that the Senate has not yet acquiesced to accepting the Senate’s rules from the last Congress.
There’s evidence to support the GOP position because there have been several references to standing rules in the Senate’s actions thus far in the 113th Congress, even as Reid has continued the first legislative day.
Nonetheless, despite GOP opposition, nothing would prevent Senate Democrats from moving forward if they have the 51 votes needed.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.