Potential 2011 Senate Majority leader supports filibuster reform effort

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Feb 12, 2010 at 13:17

Supporters of filibuster reform scored a big catch today, as Senate #2 Dick Durbin came out in favor of Tom Harkin's effort to reform the filibuster.  Additionally, Greg Sargent reports that Senator Durbin is working with other members of the Senate Democratic caucus to reform the filibuster:

Durbin spokesman Joe Shoemaker confirms to me that the Senator supports the new effort, which was unveiled yesterday by Senators Tom Harkin and Jeanne Shaheen.

The Harkin proposal would officially amend the process by which a filibuster is broken, allowing a four-step process that could eventually allow it to be broken by a majority vote. The first vote would require 60 votes to break the filibuster, followed by motions requiring 57, 54, and finally, 51 votes.

The key is that Durbin is apparently playing an active role in backing the Harkin effort. A senior leadership aide tells me Durbin is "in talks with a number of other Democratic senators regarding possible changes to Senate rules."

This is significant for two main reasons:

  1. Durbin could be Majority Leader next year. If Harry Reid is defeated for re-election in November, and Democrats retain their majority, then Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer are the two most likely candidates to replace Reid as Majority Leader.  Thus, one of the three Democrats who will potentially be Majority Leader on the first day the Senate is in session in 2011 (when only 51 votes are required to change Senate rules) now supports filibuster reform.  The backing of the Majority Leader is necessary for success in the filibuster reform campaign.

  2. Public supporters of filibuster reform now outnumber public opponents of filibuster reform in the Senate Democratic caucus. According to the Filibuster Reform Whip Count we started back on Wednesday, Durbin becomes the 11th Democratic Senator in favor of reform that would ultimately allow any legislation to pass the Senate with 51 votes unless the Constitution explicitly forbids it.  By comparison, only 10 members of the Democratic Senate caucus are still clearly on record opposing this plan.
Among the 51 Democratic Senators (a number that includes (Vice-President Biden) who are either not up for re-election or whom polling currently gives a 100% of return (or first entry) in 2011, there are now 11 supporters, 8 "maybes" and 8 opponents.

Filibuster Reform Whip Count
51 members of the Democratic caucus currently with a 100% chance of being in the Senate in 2011

Winning this campaign is going to require 51 votes, which means convincing a lot of undecided Senators, flipping some Senators who are currently "no", and also getting some incoming / endangered members on board.   It is certainly a tall task, but getting Dick Durbin provides real momentum.  I don't care how quixotic people think it is--this is a winnable campaign.

Also, check out David Waldman's latest article on the filibuster reform effort.

Chris Bowers :: Potential 2011 Senate Majority leader supports filibuster reform effort

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from the WaPo (0.00 / 0)
By Paul Kane
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday dismissed an effort by some Democrats to eliminate the filibuster, saying the chamber's procedures were designed to prevent the majority party from unilaterally changing the rules.

Minutes before a pair of colleagues formally unveiled their proposal to eliminate filibusters, Reid told reporters he adhered to the long-standing Senate rule that only a two-thirds majority could change the chamber's rules. This high hurdle -- established decades ago in an effort to prevent a party with a simple majority from ruling the chamber with an iron fist -- would require eight Republicans to join the 59 members of the Democratic caucus to alter the rules, something Reid said is not going to happen.

"I'm totally familiar with his idea," Reid said of the latest filibuster-reform resolution, from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). "It takes 67 votes, and that, kind of, answers the question."

Hoping Schumer & Gillibrand will answer my inquiries about this. n/t (0.00 / 0)

Somewhat off-topic: 60% of those present would be better (4.00 / 1)
Long ago, the cloture rules required 67% of Senators present. This was revised in 1975 to 60% of all 100 Senators.

The Harkin-Sheehan bill would require 60 votes for cloture the first try, then if it failed would require waiting a few days and then 57 votes, then a few days later 54 votes, and finally, a few days later 51. This would delay votes for too long.

Instead of this convoluted process, the Senate should change the cloture rules back to require only 60% of those present. To prevent shenanigans, the rule should read "cloture requires 50% of all Senators or 60% of those Senators present, whichever is greater". With this rule, a dedicated minority could hold up the process by maintaining at least 40% of opponents in the Senate chamber around the clock. Otherwise, 50 votes would end cloture.

Better yet, (0.00 / 0)
if they're going to change the rules, require 40 percent (or more) of members to vote to stop debate and voting whenever a member calls for a count.

I don't see such a downside of the delay proposed by Harkin, though. It preserves the original intent to assure that the minority gets a chance to speak, yet prevents the minority from using it to veto the majority's legislation. It would also make it much clearer who is standing in the doorway. Some of its utility would depend on whether this week of waiting would stop all other business as the current rules do. Anybody know? Either way, it wouldn't waste more time than all the resolutions declaring Podunk, ID America's tater tot heritage site.

Remember, though, that if the Senate still proceeded Reid's way, cloture would never come to a vote, so the rules would remain completely irrelevant.

[ Parent ]
Not to be terse (0.00 / 0)
When Byrd actually dies, or retires, West Virginia will replace him with a Republican, right? And that'll be the end of the Democratic majority in the Senate.

I guess I'm getting old (0.00 / 0)
But I remember when filibuster reform was the nuclear option.  You realize that Democrats aren't going to control the Senate forever, right?


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