The efforts by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and other progressive Democrats to reform the filibuster have failed, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reached a deal to change the filibuster — but not as far as Udall and others would have liked.
Updated 11:20 pm: See Udall’s statement at the bottom of the post.
It appears that Reid used the threat of the progressive plan to extract more concessions from the Republicans on what will likely be a widely bipartisan plan.
One big move that the progressive Senators were pushing for is mandating a “talking filibuster” instead of the current “silent filibuster.” This was not part of the deal reached by Reid and McConnell.
What mandating a “talking filibuster” would have done is make Senators who wished to delay a bill actually speak on the floor to delay the bill. It would put the burden on those who wished to delay the bill to have enough support to do so. Currently, the burden is on the majority to reach 60 votes to head off a filibuster.
The Huffington Post has more details:
The deal would address the filibuster on the motion to proceed, which had regularly prevented the Senate from even considering legislation and was a major frustration for Reid. It would also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority’s ability to filibuster that motion once — meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.
Reid won concessions on judicial nominations as well. Under the old rules, after a filibuster had been beaten, 30 more hours were required to pass before a nominee could finally be confirmed. That delay threatened to tie the chamber in knots. The new rules will only allow two hours to pass after cloture is invoked before a nominee is confirmed.
Udall was among the leaders of the new filibuster reform movement, along with Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
The plan proposed by Udall and the others could only be put in place on the first day of the new Congress. Reid made sure to recess instead of adjourn to make the first legislative day last for three weeks instead of 24 hours, a common procedural move in legislative bodies.
New Mexico Telegram has reached out to Udall’s office for comment on the deal and will update this post when a response is given.
Udall says in a statement:
“For more than three years, I’ve been committed to changing the Senate rules so that Congress can effectively respond to the needs of the country. The Constitution has been the catalyst for reforming the current filibuster and that marks a breakthrough.
“The agreement that’s been struck is a combination of rules and behavioral changes, and not as strong what many of us have been advocating. However, it alters the way we deal with nominations, conference committees and motions to proceed — all things I’ve been working toward. The leaders have also agreed to make filibusters more transparent and bring objectors to the chamber for actual debate. I am supporting their efforts to get a bipartisan agreement today, and moving forward will continue to fight for the stronger filibuster reforms my colleagues and I believe will make the Senate a more accountable institution.
“We’ve come a long way toward reforming the Senate and the filibuster in the last three years. We’ve made progress, but I’m not done fighting to change the way we do business. It’s true what my Uncle Mo used to say: ‘Reform is not for the short-winded.'”