On the first day in is in session in 2011, the Senate will be able to change its rules with a simple majority vote (51). As such, we have been tracking support in the Democratic caucus for reforming the filibuster.
To date, 11 members of the Democratic Senate caucus--all of whom are 99%+ certain to return in 2011--support a majority-controlled Senate requiring only 51 votes to pass legislation. Further, 9 other members of the caucus support some other, often unspecified, type of reform to the filibuster rule. That is already 20 in favor of some type of reform.
Evan Bayh and Chris Dodd, two Senators who won't be in the Senate for the crucial vote next year, have also come out with their positions. Since they are leaving the Senate this is purely academic, but it still demonstrates an interesting lesson: filibuster reform is not supported only by progressives. In this case, the famously centrist Evan Bayh favors filibuster reform, while the more progressive Dodd opposes any change.
"I totally oppose the idea of changing filibuster rules," Dodd said during an appearance on MSNBC. "That's foolish, in my view."
I think it's something we need to do, perhaps looking at changing the threshold once again, down to 55. Perhaps saying that, Administration appointees, other than the very highest ones, should not be subject to the filibuster. Because it's just brought the process to a halt, and the public is suffering. So the minority needs to have a right. I think that's important. But the public has a right to see its business done. And not routinely allow a small minority to keep us from addressing the great issues that face this country. I think the filibuster absolutely needs to be changed.
The campaign for filibuster reform is proving to be less dominated by progressive Senators than the original campaign for the public option:
Filibuster reform has diverse ideological support within the Democratic Party. Don't assume that just because a Senator is on the right-wing of the party that s/he will be opposed to this campaign.
- 21 current and future Senators have now come out in favor of some sort of reform. Seven of those 21, or 33%, are either members of Evan Bayh's "Moderate Working Group" (Conservadems) or of the Senate New Democratic caucus. That is roughly the same percentage of Conservadems and New Dems in the overall Senate Democratic caucus (22 of 59, or 37%).
- By comparison, among the original 28 supporters of the public option in the Senate, only three were either Conservadems or New Dems. That is only an 11% representation for those two groups, far below their overall percentage of the Senate caucus.