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Posted at 1:03 PM ET, 01/27/2011

Scaled-down filibuster reform looks like a done deal

By Greg Sargent

A Senate aide emails an outline of the final deal on a scaled-down filibuster reform packaged reached between Dem and GOP leaders, and it will be voted on today:

Under the terms of the agreement the senate will hold votes on:

* Eliminating secret holds, including the right of senators to pass their secret holds to another anonymous senator to keep a rolling secret hold.

* Eliminating senators rights to force the reading of an amendment that has already been submitted for 72 hours and is publicly available.

* Legislation to exempt about 1/3 of all nominations from the Senate confirmation process, reducing the number of executive nominations subject to Senate delays, which will be scheduled at a future date under the terms of an agreement reached by Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman and HSGA ranking member Sen. Susan Collins, along with Sens. Reid and Chuck Schumer.

Key things missing from this package: The "talking filibuster," which would force Senators to actually filibuster, and the elimination of the filibuster on the so-called "motion to proceed." As noted here recently, Dem and GOP leaders reached a deal by which they would not pass the broader package favored by reformers via the "Constitutional option," i.e., by simple majority. Instead, they agreed to pass the scaled-down package with 67 votes and broad bipartisan support. Dems were uncomfortable with the "Constitutional option" and it seemed unlikely that even 51 Dem Senators would vote for it.

Indeed, Harry Reid spelled out on the floor of the Senate just now that it would set a better precedent to pass rules reform via compromise. He dded that he'd reached a deal with McConnell wherein McConnell, too, vowed not to pass rules changes via a simple majority should the GOP take back the upper chamber.

"We've agreed that I won't force a majority vote to fundamentally change the Senate," Reid said. "And he won't in the future."

There will still be votes today on the more ambitious package of reforms favored by Tom Harkin, Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley, but no one expects them to garner the necessary 67 votes. However, as Steve Benen notes, forcing votes on the bigger package will raise the issue's visibility and put Senators on the record. We'll soon see how far individual Senators are willing to go in reforming an institution that confers enormous power on them but has become largely dysfunctional.

Getting some sort of reform done at least allows reformers to get a foot in the door, and could provide the foundation for future reforms. Of course, future opportunities may not present themselves anytime soon, and if the historic levels of obstructionism and dysfunction of the last two years weren't enough to build support for more ambitious reform, it's hard to imagine what would be enough.

That said, the glass-half-full point to make here is that the issue has gained far more discussion and attention than anyone thought possible even six months ago, and those pushing rules reform along deserve big props for that.

UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.: A quick clarification: The votes on the secret holds and waiving of the reading of bills only require 60 to pass, because they're part of the deal Reid and McConnell reached. The votes on the broader reform proposals require 67 to pass, because they're not part of the deal.

By Greg Sargent  | January 27, 2011; 1:03 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans, filibuster  
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Next: Did Reid and McConnell just doom future filibuster reform?


Time Magazine has officially jumped the shark, comparing Reagan to Obama

Time is going to stop publishing at some point - it is unbelievable that they are so ridiculously liberal that they have been unable to navigate the internet era.

Newsweek finally was worth ONE DOLLAR.

Time is obviously worth less than that.


Posted by: RainForestRising | January 27, 2011 1:28 PM | Report abuse


Read the article and let's hear all the "practical" reasons why this is utterly impossible for Obama to do. In fact, he'll probably just ignore the questions like he did during the election transition.

"The YouTube generation is speaking, and many of them want to legalize marijuana. Changing the nation's drug laws is dominating the questions submitted by YouTube users in advance of President Obama's 2:30 p.m. question-and-answer on the video website."

Posted by: wbgonne | January 27, 2011 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Don't you mean "glass 3/100ths full"?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 27, 2011 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Follow The Anonymous Money:

Will The Secret Big Donors Pick The Republican Presidential Nominee for 2012?

I have seen a lot of pundits draw attention the the fact that no Republican Presidential candidates have yet actually jumped into the race for the 2012 nomination, which is very late for to have no declared Republican candidates , compared to the previous Presidential nomination cycle.

I have not seen any clear reason given, for why none of the rumored candidates have not yet jumped in to the water. Some speculate that those potential candidates that are being paid to appear on Faux News, might be delaying entering the race for the nomination, because they would have to either quit their Faux News positions, or Faux News would have to give their opponents equal time.

What has changed between the last Presidential contest and now? The Supreme Court Gang Of Five Right Wing Stooges ruling that Secret Fat Cats can now dominate elections.

It would not surprise me one bit, if Karl Rove and The Chamber Of Con Artists, will have such control of most of the Big Contributions, that they will decide who will have financial backing and who will not.

There is a very strong likelihood that "Turd Blossom" will write the restricted candidate menu, that the primary voters, will be limited to vote on.

Follow The Money, as it begins to flow from The Rove/Koch/Chamber Of Con Artists, axis, and it will probably lead you to the Republican nominee that The Oligarchy wanted, and will get.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 27, 2011 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, I really expect Mitch to keep HIS word in the future.

Posted by: lcrider1 | January 27, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

"Follow The Money, as it begins to flow from The Rove/Koch/Chamber Of Con Artists, axis, and it will probably lead you to the Republican nominee that The Oligarchy wanted, and will get."

Chris Christie. All he has to do is drop 50 pounds and he's perfect for the GOP. Or maybe being fat helps him with the Doughnuts Are Freedom crowd.

Posted by: wbgonne | January 27, 2011 1:38 PM | Report abuse

So with this agreement, I predict the following:

1) Republicans will continue to filibuster everything to try to win the 2012 elections or at least win a Senate majority in 2012.

2) Because Democrats won't be able to pass anything (see item #1) the Republicans will win a Senate majority in 2012 (but Obama will keep the Presidency)

3) on the first day of the next Congress, Republicans will vote to abolish the filibuster using a majority.

Thanks Reid. Thanks a lot. Are you sure you aren't getting paid by Republicans?

Posted by: kindness1 | January 27, 2011 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Liam-still, taking on an incumbent next year is very different than where both parties were before 2008. Especially on the Democrats side. Three GOP candidates have "declared" or formed exploratory committees though: Herman Cain, Fred Karger, and Jimmy McMillan (of "The Rent is Too Damn High" fame).

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 27, 2011 1:45 PM | Report abuse

"The Hill" is reporting today that Romney is exploring dates to announce whether he will run: "a hint he is nearing a final decision."

"Roll Call" also reported today that "Sen. John Thune is giving himself a short window -- 32 days from now -- for making a decision on whether to run for president."

I hope that they both have their original LONG FORM birth certificates ready to release : )

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 27, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

I am a life long Progressive who was against doing away with the Senate 60 votes requirement to move a bill to debate. The reason why I have taken that position is two fold.

First; I believe that major trans-formative legislation should alway have to clear high hurdles before being passed.

Second: If it took sixty votes to get something worthwhile enacted, I think it would be insane to lower the vote barrier that has to be leaped over, in order to repeal it.

Sooner or later, The Republicans will be back in full control of all branches of government. They are already in control of The House and The Supreme Court. When they White House and Senate, why would you have already created a set of rules that would allow them to repeal everything that we needed sixty votes to pass, with just 51 Senate votes? Make them get sixty votes for repeal, just like we had to pass the bills.

From a Democratic Party standpoint, that would be like committing political suicide, and for the long term political and economic stability of the nation, it would be very disruptive, and destructive to the stability of the economy, if bills were being enacted and repealed, every time power switched from one party to the other.

How the hell could businesses or government institutions make an long term plans, if they were going to be whipsawed every time the government changed hands?

Be careful about falling in love with the notion of instant gratification, without fully considering the long term hangover effects.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 27, 2011 2:05 PM | Report abuse


I agree with you on the filibuster. I think the problem is a political one, not a result of the rules. The rules would have worked just fine if the the Democrats had been able -- as they should have been -- to exact a serious political price for GOP obstructionism. If the Democrats can't stand up for themselves and their policies no rule will save them.

The Bears made it fun with the Third Stringer at QB. Maybe he shouldn't be Third String anymore. Anyway, Packers are clearly the better team.

J-E-T-S over the Pats? ARRGGHHH.


Posted by: wbgonne | January 27, 2011 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Conservatives unite! Here's an article on why EMTALA should be repealed, a gov't mandate for universal hospital care:

Posted by: bsimon1 | January 27, 2011 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Re: Christie-

Not unless he goes full anti-Muslim...

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | January 27, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

All, looks like Reid and McConnell have doomed the possibility of meaningful filibuster reform in the future:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | January 27, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

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