January 25, 2011
No Formal Filibuster Reform This Session
Senate Democrats today concluded that they couldn't muster the 51 votes necessary to change Senate Rule XXII, the cloture rule, and thus formally reform the filibuster.
Why just 51 votes, a bare majority? Under the "constitutional option," the Senate can change its own rules, including the cloture rule, on the first day of the legislative session, because before it votes to (re)adopt its rules it operates under default parliamentary rules, which require a bare majority. After the first day, a rules change requires a two-thirds vote. We most recently posted on filibuster reform efforts here.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) extended the first legislative day (which started three weeks ago) through today in order to round up 51 votes for a rules change. But according to The Hill, there aren't 51 votes for the change, and the Senate was set to adjourn the first day tonight.
Instead of a formal rule change, it sounds like Democrats and Republicans are closing in on an informal agreement: The Dems will allow Republicans more room to offer amendments, and the Republicans will agree to reduce their use of the filibuster.
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