This past week, the legendary Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) passed away. The soft-spoken Democratic Senate Leader was also tough as nails – when he was a boxer in his youth, his nickname was “the honey badger.”

Bill Dauster, former deputy chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, eulogizes, Remembering Sen. Harry Reid, Soft-Spoken Man of Consequence (excerpt):


Harry Reid was the most consequential Senate leader since Lyndon Johnson. In large part because of his hard work, 31 million Americans now live longer, healthier, less pain-wracked lives because they have health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. In large part because of Harry Reid’s work on the American Recovery Act, the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009 did not become a second Great Depression. In large part because of Harry Reid, millions of Americans have protection from fraudsters under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

As consequential as those laws were, Harry Reid may well be most consequential because he made the Senate more democratic. For 35 years, congressional procedure has been my trade, so I’ve seen how Speaker Newt Gingrich and Leader Mitch McConnell consolidated power in the leadership and finely tuned the art of obstruction. Give them credit: They do not believe that government should help working people, so they were happy to block it from doing so as often as they could.

But Harry Reid did not settle for business as usual. When Leader McConnell violated Senate norms to preemptively block appointments by America’s first African American President, Harry Reid did not just resign himself to the all-too-common belief that that’s just the way the Senate is. He worked the Democratic Caucus, telephone call after telephone call, meeting after meeting, until he could do something about it. And in November 2013, he got rid of the filibuster for judicial nominations.

Note: Senate Confirms Biden’s 40th Judge, Tying a Reagan-Era Record; also, Biden Is On Pace To Get 100 Judges Confirmed In 2022.

As a result, nominations are now confirmed by a majority vote. And before too long, I believe, majority vote will be the rule for everything in the Senate. When the Senate ultimately takes that next step to become more democratic, we will have Harry Reid to thank for it.

Chris Walker writes, One of Harry Reid’s Last Wishes Was to End the Filibuster (excerpt):

In marking his passing, many observers took note of Reid’s recent stance against the filibuster, with the former Minority House Leader advocating for its abolition.

[Reid] had come around on the issue of the filibuster, arguing for its end.

“The Senate is now a place where the most pressing issues facing our country are disregarded, along with the will of the American people overwhelmingly calling for action,” Reid wrote in an opinion piece for The New York Times in August 2019. “The future of our country is sacrificed at the altar of the filibuster.”

“If the Senate cannot address the most important issues of our time, then it is time for the chamber itself to change, as it has done in the past,” Reid added.

In September 2021, Reid wrote another op-ed, this time appealing to Nevadans in the Las Vegas Sun. Reid described the Senate as “a legislative graveyard where the minority rules and bills that we as a country desperately need go to die.”

Reid said that legislation with popular support — including the PRO Act, the Equality Act, voting rights and abortion protections recognized in Roe v. Wade — were all blocked due to the filibuster.

“The sanctity of the Senate is not the filibuster,” Reid said. “The sanctity of the Senate — in government as a whole — is the power it holds to better the lives of and protect the rights of the American people. We need to get the Senate working again.”

In noting Reid’s passing, many commentators on social media said that eliminating the filibuster, once and for all, would be the best way to honor him.

Jason Easley adds, The Senate Must Honor The Late Harry Reid By Abolishing The Filibuster (excerpt):

Senate Democrats Must Listen To Harry Reid And Change The Filibuster

Current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Reid his mentor, and Schumer has been following Reid’s playbook in his efforts to change the filibuster.

The filibuster change that Reid accomplished in 2013 was a long slow process that took more than a year of effort. Reid himself said that he should have changed more of the filibuster, but in 2013, he thought that the Republicans would eventually return to normal. Instead, they became more radicalized and obsessed with obstruction and gridlock.

Democrats in the Senate have an opportunity to honor Harry Reid in a lasting way. Senate Democrats can abolish the filibuster so that every time a person can go to the polls and vote, it will be a small tribute to the legacy of Sen. Reid.

When the planet cools, or action can finally be taken against gun violence in the Senate, it will be because Democratic Senators gave Harry Reid a lasting legacy in the Senate.

Democrats could even name the filibuster rule after Reid.

Harry Reid called for the filibuster to be abolished, and Senate Democrats should do exactly that in his name.

Chris Walker notes:

Although moderate Democrats, like Senators Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), stand in the way of reforming or eliminating the filibuster, many polls have demonstrated that voters support reforming or completely getting rid of the rule, especially if it would help lawmakers pass important pieces of legislation. Even President Joe Biden believes that the filibuster should, at a minimum, be changed to require senators to actually stand and speak for it to be implemented.

It is past time for the obstructionist Sens. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), appeasers and enablers of the enemies of democracy and a tyranny of the minority, to stand down and end the filibuster for fundamental voting rights legislation – the Freedom to Vote Act was co-authored by Joe Manchin – in order to save American democracy from creeping GQP authoritarian fascism.

The Hill reported, Democrats set for showdown over filibuster, voting rights (excerpt):

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is vowing to bring the fight to a head in January.

“The Senate will consider voting rights legislation, as early as the first week back. … If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster and prevent the body from considering this bill, the Senate will then consider changes to any rules which prevent us from debating and reaching final conclusion on important legislation,” Schumer wrote in a letter to the caucus.

But forcing a vote could highlight division within the caucus, where both Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) support the 60-vote threshold. Democrats need both of them to ultimately vote to change the rules.

Voting rights legislation and potential changes to the Senate’s legislative filibuster are linked because Republicans have used the 60-vote hurdle to block bills that would overhaul federal elections or strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Democrats are having behind-the-scenes talks to try to come up with ways to change the Senate’s rules to break the logjam and a group of Democrats — including Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Angus King (I-Maine), who caucuses with the party — was tapped by Schumer to lead the discussions and come up with options.

“We’ve got to get this done. … We are having a robust conversation,” said Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who has publicly and privately pushed his colleagues to be more aggressive in coming up with a plan to pass voting rights legislation.

Kaine added that “there’s ideas on the table now that people are attracted to.”

“We’re looking at reforms to restore the Senate. It’s not just filibuster reforms,” he added.

Democrats haven’t settled on a plan, but instead are discussing a range of options aimed at winning over the 50 votes needed to invoke the “nuclear option” and change the Senate’s rules with a simple majority.

[O]ne option, backed by some in the caucus, would be to revert to a talking filibuster where opponents to a bill could delay it for as long as they could hold the floor, but that legislation would then only need 51 votes to clear the Senate.

Another would create a carveout from the 60-vote requirement for voting rights or election legislation. Though that would leave the hurdle in place for other legislation, Republicans warn that it would pave the way for the legislative filibuster to be neutered altogether.

The carveout idea has picked up support from within the Democratic caucus.

Smaller options include changing the number of votes from 60 “yes” votes needed to break a filibuster to 41 “no” votes needed to sustain it. Supporters argue that it would put the onus on senators blocking the bill, rather than on supporters who want to advance a piece of legislation.

Senators have also discussed getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle to start debate on a piece of legislation combined with a deal that guarantees a certain number of amendment votes for both sides.

That is unlikely to satisfy reform advocates because it would leave in place the 60-vote hurdle needed to end debate on legislation and ultimately move it to a final vote. But it would make it easier to debate bills in the Senate, where opponents are currently able to prevent a bill from being brought up, and gets around a current rule that allows any senator to block amendment votes unless leadership is willing to eat up days of time.

[T]hough Manchin has talked with a group of GOP senators about ideas including getting rid of the 60-vote hurdle needed to start debate combined with a guarantee on amendment votes, Republicans are unlikely to support any rules change that gets rid of the 60-vote hurdle needed to end debate on the bill.

That means Democrats will need to use the “nuclear option” to change the legislative filibuster on their own.

But they don’t yet have the votes to do that, and it’s not clear how they get there on the two changes — a talking filibuster or a carveout — that would be needed for Democrats to be able to pass voting rights legislation on their own.

Both Manchin and Sinema have made clear recently that they remain adamant in their support for the 60-vote hurdle.

“If you can make the Senate work better, the rules are something we’ve changed over the years; 232 years, there’s been rule changes. But there’s never been a change with the filibuster, the rights of the minority,” Manchin said during a “Fox News Sunday” interview Dec. 19.

Sinema has also been skeptical of a carveout for voting legislation, raising concerns about what types of legislation a Republican majority could enact under the same rules change.

In addition to talking to Republicans, Manchin has been in talks with Kaine, King and Tester. Though Manchin hasn’t publicly committed to supporting any change, and continues to say that rules reforms need to be bipartisan, senators believe that they are making progress with the key holdout.

“He’s ain’t there yet, but he’s open,” Tester said about Manchin, noting that they had given language on potential changes.

Manchin added during the Fox News interview that he had made “no commitments” on what changes he could potentially support.

“I am working on trying to make the Senate work better, bringing bills to the floor, amending them, having debates, understanding, being transparent to the public, what you agree or disagree,” he said.

Sinema, meanwhile, is calling for a public debate in the Senate on the rules, a similar position she staked out during a July Washington Post op-ed.

Riiight, just debate it, with no commitment to changing her position to end the filibuster rule. It is disingenuous to claim that she supports voting rights legislation, but then will not do the one thing everyone knows is necessary to pass voting rights legislation. She is not really for voting rights if she will not do what is necessary to pass voting rights. Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

Failing to change the Senate’s rules and pass voting rights legislation would be a significant blow to both the White House — which has signaled its a top priority — and outside civil rights and progressive groups, which see passing legislation as fundamental to protecting democracy.

Schumer, during an interview with the “Joe Madison Show,” urged advocates to keep up the pressure heading toward the Senate action—including on his own members.

“Keep up the drumbeat,” Schumer said. “We need all the anger and the protests, etc., that have occurred here.”

“So now we’re in the final stages,” he added, “and we’re asking people to keep up the pressure.”

The Senate returns to work this week. Call Senator Sinema’s office and demand that she end her obstruction of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. End the Senate filibuster for fundamental voting rights – this is what the Jim Crow relic Senate filibuster rule has always been used to obstruct. These voting rights bills must pass now.

Voting rights advocates are marching in Phoenix on January 15 – the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s actual birthday – and in Washington D.C. on January 17, the federal holiday for King’s birthday. For more information, see, and #DeliverForVotingRights on Twitter.

The Senate needs to get this done. Getting it done by the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday would honor all of the generations of Americans who have fought and died for the freedom to vote, and give Americans cause to celebrate this Martin Luther King holiday. And we just might save American democracy in the process.