Reid and McConnell Agree on Filibuster Reform Measures
Proposal would curb use of filibusters and streamline other procedures to speed up floor action
Ted Barrett CNN Senior Congressional Producer
January 24, 2013
Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will propose a list of reforms that would curb the use of filibusters and streamline other procedures in order to speed up floor action. The measures would require the support of each party's caucus, and will be subject to a series of floor votes, which could happen later Thursday.
The proposal, according to one Senate aide, offers a compromise that would reduce the number of filibusters while ensuring the minority party gets votes on some amendments.
The proposal allows for two paths that could be used to begin debate on legislation, avoiding filibusters designed to prevent debate from actually taking place.
In the first path, Reid would allow two amendments from both parties to be presented, with the caveat that if an amendment isn't relevant to the legislation at hand, it would be subject to a 60-vote threshold.
On measures where Reid and McConnell agree, a second path allows votes to overcome filibusters to be held the day after Reid files a procedural petition, instead of the two-day period currently in place. That change would disallow stalled votes on consensus legislation.
Reid and McConnell's proposal also requires senators threatening filibusters to come to the Senate floor to voice their concerns. The two leaders would work to ensure that time used to stall votes on bills is used in actual debate.
The proposal will also limit debate on some presidential nominations that require Senate approval.
Democrats have complained that the minority Republicans deliberately overuse the filibuster to block Democratic legislation. A group of junior Senate Democrats pushed Reid to pass broad reforms - including reinstating the requirement that senators conducting a filibuster speak continuously on the floor - by using a controversial method that would change Senate rules with just 51 votes instead of the 67 customarily required.
Republicans, furious they might be jammed, argued the filibuster is the only leverage they have to get roll call votes on amendments that otherwise are routinely denied them by the majority Democrats. They say if Democrats push the reforms through on 51 votes - what Republicans call the "nuclear option" - it will destroy relations between the two parties and lead to massive gridlock in the chamber.
A bipartisan group of senior members, led by Sens. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Carl Levin, D-Michigan, offered the alternative compromise that became part of Reid and McConnell's proposal.
"We are going to change the way we do business here," Reid said Wednesday. "We can do it either the easy way or the hard way but it's going to change."
Reid insisted Tuesday he has the 51 votes needed to pass the reforms if Republicans don't agree to a compromise.