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:
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.
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
No current statement (24): Cantwell (WA); Cardin (MD); Carper (DE); Franken (MN); Gillibrand (NY); Hagan (NC); Johnson (SD); Klobuchar (MN); Landrieu (LA); McCaskill (MO); Menendez (NJ); Nelson (NE); Nelson (FL); Reed (RI); Rockefeller (WV); Schumer (NY); Stabenow (MI); Tester (MT); Udall (CO); Warner (VA); Webb (VA); Whitehouse (RI); Wyden (OR); Sanders (VT)
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.