Political Animal


November 13, 2012 12:23 PM Names To Remember On Filibuster Reform

By Ed Kilgore

If Harry Reid does indeed impose some sort of filibuster reform as part of the Senate’s rules at the beginning of the next Congress, he only needs 51 votes to uphold his decision (pending some unlikely adverse ruling by the parliamentarian or the success of some sort of Republican maneuver in the courts, which is even more unlikely). He may or may not (probably not) cut some deal with a few Senate Republicans to get them on board, but those wanting the most serious reforms possible would prefer the minimum in concessions to anyone.

So that’s why reform supporters should pay close attention to the names of Democratic Senators who have voted again filibuster reform in the recent past, as noted in this Alexander Bolton article in The Hill:

[Tom] Udall, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) proposed a package of reforms for the 112th Congress that would have eliminated filibusters on motions to proceed to new business. Their package also would have required senators wanting to hold up legislation or nominees to actually hold the floor and debate, and shortened to two hours the time that must elapse after a filibuster on a nominee has been cut off.
The package failed in a 44-51 vote, with Democratic Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Reid voting no. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) did not vote.

Webb and Kohl are gone, and Reid has obviously changed his mind; Pryor and Reed are obviously still around. DiFi has definitely made negative noises about filibuster reform, and even some who voted for it, such as Landrieu, Feingold, Rockefeller and Tester, have on occasions been shaky.

If this is a big deal to you, keeping the pressure up on Senate Democrats to discard the many rationalizations available for maintaining the old filibuster rules is the best place to start.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Ronald on November 13, 2012 12:29 PM:

    Just a point- didn't Reid vote 'no' as a procedural exercise so it could be brought up later or something?

    else- agree with all else.
    Filibuster reform is necessary in the Senate- no matter which party is in charge now or in the future.

    With things as they are now, the Senate (hell, the entire Congress) is a laughingstock.

  • Quaker in a Basement on November 13, 2012 12:36 PM:

    and Reid has obviously changed his mind

    Reid's no vote was likely procedural. A no vote preserves certain prerogatives, I think.

  • Craigo on November 13, 2012 12:36 PM:

    Kerry and Inouye have come around to at least reform. The real good news is that pretty much every new Democrat plus King supports it.

  • SadOldVet on November 13, 2012 12:41 PM:

    Here in the Mississippi of the Midwest (aka Indiana), our new DINO senator is not a sure bet to vote with the democrats for filibuster reform. His platform included support for continuing the tax breaks for the wealthy, so don't count on him for putting working people & the country above the funding wing of the repuke party.

  • Mimikatz on November 13, 2012 1:01 PM:

    They can do it gradually. This year have a package that includes: (1) no filibusters on motions to proceed; (2) no filibusters on appointments other than Supreme Court Justice or Cabinet Secretary; (3) filibusters require presence on the floor of a minimum and increasing number of filibusterers; and (4) cloture requires only 56 Senators. That would make filibusters more public, less frequent and require the Dems to get 1 GOPer to break. They can dangle enough goodies to get that. Try that out for the next two years.

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2012 1:15 PM:

    I never underestimate the ability of the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

  • Greg on November 13, 2012 1:24 PM:

    Feingold is gone too, FYI.

  • sjw on November 13, 2012 1:30 PM:

    Some phone calls by Obama and personal visits by Biden would be in order here.

    I think the Democrats ought to go "long" on this, i.e., push for the maximal change. That would need to be combined, of course, with a long game for 2014 and 2016 plus confidence that they could at least maintain the current numbers in both houses.

  • Yastreblyansky on November 13, 2012 1:47 PM:

    What Ronald said: I remember it the same way (I tried to get a clearer picture but Dr. Google didn't like my search terms much).

  • schtick on November 13, 2012 3:34 PM:

    Instead of dems shaking in their shoes whenever teapubs mention filibuster, they should be forced to filibuster or vote. Let them earn their pay and read the names of everyone in every phone book in America if they want, but force them to do it.

  • Quaker in a Basement on November 14, 2012 3:51 AM:

    "Let them earn their pay and read the names of everyone in every phone book in America if they want,"

    Trouble is, that only takes one of them and a roomful of us.

  • Quaker in a Basement on November 14, 2012 3:54 AM: