I just spoke with an aide to Sen. Chris Dodd about my story on the amendment threshold in the Wall Street reform debate. He said that he did not believe Senator Dodd would place a 60-vote threshold on every amendment that comes to the floor.
First, a slight clarification. As the aide stressed to me, any amendment can be subject to filibuster. Democrats could require cloture on Republican amendments, and Republicans could require cloture on Democratic amendments. But what happened in the health care debate was something entirely different. In that debate, Democrats and Republicans agreed that every amendment would need 60 votes to pass. Essentially, they combined the cloture vote and the vote on the amendment into one standard that held for every vote. This was done via agreement between the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and the managers on the bill.
So when I was talking about a 60-vote threshold, I was talking specifically about Dodd and Shelby, via an agreement, putting this second option, with a single vote needing 60, on all amendments. And this is what Richard Burr, speaking with Hill reporter Mike Stark, said would happen in the FinReg debate. But the Dodd aide told me, “I don’t think that’s going to happen.” In other words, while individual amendments could be subject to filibuster at the discretion of individual Senators, there would not be a blanket, 60-vote threshold required for any changes to the base bill. Dodd would not be alone in creating such a threshold; that would be worked out through agreements with his counterpart Richard Shelby, as well as the Majority and Minority Leaders. But the aide basically said that Dodd wouldn’t support such a standard.
That’s very good news indeed, and while it doesn’t mean that big changes to the bill won’t be a long haul, it does mean that the possibility exists for majority-vote changes to the bill, rather than a more artificial standard which assumes a filibuster on everything.