Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
After Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the other day chortled with evil laughter that for Democrats, “There’s much for them to be angst-ridden about. If they think it’s bad now, wait till next year,” Bwahahahaha!, McConnell plans to make Dems sweat – POLITICO.com, Senate Democrats have finally wised up to the gross abuse of Senate rules by this evil troll and have finally decided to do something about it.
All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules. Senate's Returning Democrats Unanimously Favor Filibuster Reform:
The letter, delivered this week, expresses general frustration with what Democrats consider unprecedented obstruction and asks Reid to take steps to end those abuses. While it does not urge a specific solution, Democrats said it demonstrates increased backing in the majority for a proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others, weaken the minority’s ability to tie the Senate calendar into parliamentary knots.
Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it. That is a change from current rules, which require the majority leader to file a cloture motion to overcome an anonymous objection to a motion to proceed, and then wait 30 hours for a vote on it.
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[Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. has] lined up backing from more than two-thirds of senators for elimination of secret holds, which allow a senator to block action on a bill or nomination anonymously. She said that Democrats will also push plans to force senators who place holds to do it publicly.
After weeks of Democratic Caucus discussions during which newer members pushed various plans to limit filibusters, reformers are increasingly confident that they can defy predictions by Republicans and many pundits that rules changes will not happen in the near term. A Democratic leadership aide said that Democrats expect to “do something on timing” next month, specifically by seeking to prevent 30-hour waiting periods on motions to proceed.
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Adding to the momentum for change, say proponents, is a push by Udall to seek a simple majority vote on changing Senate rules at the start of the session, rather than a two-thirds majority, that is gaining steam. Such a move could come at the start of next Congress, shortly after the Senate returns on January 5th.
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Filibuster reform backers say they have now won broad caucus support for a compromise proposal that avoids more contentious ideas.
“Hopefully that gives [Reid] the juice he needs to negotiate reasonable changes so we can stop the abuses next year,” McCaskill said.
Merkley said on Tuesday it was too early to tell what proposal Democrats will ultimately push because talks, including conversations “between the Democrats and Republican leadership” continue.
“The next step is that when we come back in January, to actually be able to hold that type of conversation on the floor of the Senate,” Merkley said.
Democratic unity stems from an unlikely source: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has mounted more filibusters in the past two years than occurred in the ’50s and ’60s combined. Uncontroversial bills like an extension of unemployment benefits that passed 97-0 and food-safety legislation that passed with 73 votes frequently faced multiple filibusters and months of delay. The minority has been so relentless and indiscriminate in deploying the once-rare failsafe that the majority has finally decided to do something about it. Ezra Klein – Senate Democrats support filibuster reform.
David Dayen at Firedog Lake, commenting on Dem plans to forge ahead with filibuster reform, gets it right:
If this holds, the most consequential day of the next two years will happen on January 5.
Mark your calendars.
UPDATE: The New York Times reports Democrats Seek Changes to Senate Procedures:
Democrats, frustrated by Republican tactics, say their only option is to change the Senate rules. In the past two years, Republicans have forced more than 90 “cloture” votes, which require 60 senators to agree to limit debate on a measure. Republicans say they often had no choice since Mr. Reid denied them the opportunity to offer amendments to legislation more than 40 times.
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Democrats argue that the Constitution and previous Senate rulings allow a simple majority of the Senate to rewrite the rule book on the first day of a new Congress through what they are calling the constitutional option.
“I am definitely planning to pursue the constitutional option on the first legislative day,” said Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, one of several Democrats elected in 2006 and 2008 who have spent months mapping how to overhaul the Senate process. “What will happen as the result of that will depend on the 99 other senators.”
Mr. Udall and others say they do not intend to try to overturn the Senate’s fundamental requirement that it takes 60 votes to cut off debate and force a final vote on a disputed bill or nomination.
But they say they want to force senators to be on the floor actually speaking if they are blocking a measure, much like Jimmy Stewart did in the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” By contrast, the modern version of the filibuster allows seemingly endless breaks in floor activity, with rows of empty desks as a backdrop.
“If you have a passion for something and you want to stand up and rouse the country, then you have to do it,” Mr. Udall said.
In working to change the rules, Mr. Udall is following in the footsteps of an earlier Democratic senator from New Mexico, Clinton P. Anderson, who repeatedly pushed to change Senate rules in the 1950s and ultimately won some limited concessions from Lyndon B. Johnson, who was then the majority leader.
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In recent weeks, Mr. Reid has been talking to Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, about potential rules revisions; Mr. Alexander has been consulting with Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who is chairman of the Rules Committee.
The lawmakers would not discuss details of their talks, but others knowledgeable about the negotiations said that while Republicans might accept some changes, they were not likely to agree to anything that significantly diluted their minority rights.