Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Modest Filibuster Reform Close

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are close to agreement on modest reforms of the Senate's filibuster, according to The Hill and WaPoAs we wrote here, Senator Reid kept the first legislative day of the Senate open in order to preserve the "constitutional option"--a change in the cloture rule by a mere majority of the Senate, as part of that body's enactment of its rules on the opening day of the Congress.  (The constitutional option allows the Senate to change its rules on the first day of a new Congress under the default majority-rule rule, and not under the super-majority required by the cloture rule, Rule XXII.)  Although it appears that Senator Reid will keep the legislative day open until the parties reach a final agreement, it also appears unlikely that Senator Reid will exercise the constitutional option.

Instead, reform will be relatively modest.  Maybe most notably, the agreement would require the minority party to muster 41 votes to stall a bill, changing the current practice that requires the majority to find 60 votes to end a filibuster.  This could be significant: it would end the practice of an anonymous hold, in which a single unnamed Senator can maintain a filibuster unless and until the majority can round up 60 votes.  Other minor changes are designed to reduce delays and move business along.  The talking filibuster doesn't appear to be a part of the package.



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