There are two major benefits that would come from the Merkley-Udall Senate Rule reform proposal:
Filibuster reform.Biggest thing here is to shift the onus to maintain a filibuster onto the 41+ minority and away from the model of requiring 60 affirmative cloture votes to limit debate. But also very significant here would be making the motion to proceed non-debatable and ending secret holds. Much has been written about this, I think these are positive improvements and while I would rather just see the Senate move to actual overt majority rule, this is a significant improvement and would have led to a much better 2008-2010 for progressives.
Majority changing the rules at all. Like FDL, I think it would be very important for the Senate to pass changes to the Senate rules on a straight majority on the first day of the new Congress. It remains one of the most baffling self-delusions that the Senate and most Americans accept the fiction that it takes 60 votes to end a filibuster or 67 to change the rules. I have tried to make the point that the 2005 "nuclear option" fiasco proves that the majority can in fact rule the Senate if they so choose, but it is a tough slog. Changing the rules on a straight majority would be a big step forward in forcing everyone to dispel this cherished fable of the "cooling saucer."
So it is with significant trepidation that I read this item on Harry Reid negotiating potential rule changes with the Republicans. The likely result of any such negotiation would be a symbolic but insufficiently substantial rule tweak that allows the Republicans to continue the substantive work of grinding government to a halt at whim, while allowing Reid and other Senate rule fablists traditionalists to maintain the polite fiction of the Senate as a "continuing body" and pass such meaningless rule changes on a 67 vote supermajority.
What other point can there be to such negotiations? Republicans clearly can have no interest in limiting the filibuster as presently construed, and the only rule changes they will agree to in sufficient numbers to reach 67 would be ones that don't do anything. Hopefully I'm wrong and this is just some necessary step Reid had to take in order to placate other conservadems who like the comfortable myth of the supermajority Senate, and Reid can keep them on board with a majority imposed rule change by saying he tried to get Republicans on board, but the possibility of some kind of Gang-of-14 gentleman's agreement is a real land mine to rule reform.
One hopeful sign against this is that benefit #2 above is actually high on Udall's mind as a reason to do this:
Sen. Tom Udall, who's been at the center of the efforts to convince the Senate to begin updating its rulebook with each new Congress, has argued that this knowledge will make both the majority and the minority act more responsibly in the future, as they'll labor under the knowledge that misuse of the rules will mean reform of the rules.
So at least he's less likely to be pawned off by some agreement that is sufficiently useless as to attract 67 votes. Though, the piece on Reid from TPM quotes Udall saying he's not privy to whatever Reid is discussing so they could just bypass him and Merkley.