This is a major breaking story. The main reason that the lame duck session was so productive was that the rest of the legislative session was so UNPRODUCTIVE, because the Republicans were able to ran out the clock. Senate Democrats are taking a stand and saying, we cannot work this way anymore.
All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules.
The letter, delivered this week, expresses general frustration with what Democrats consider unprecedented obstruction and asks Reid to take steps to end those abuses. While it does not urge a specific solution, Democrats said it demonstrates increased backing in the majority for a proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others, weaken the minority’s ability to tie the Senate calendar into parliamentary knots.
Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it. That is a change from current rules, which require the majority leader to file a cloture motion to overcome an anonymous objection to a motion to proceed, and then wait 30 hours for a vote on it.
Carl Levin and Mark Warner distributed this letter, suggesting that the desire for change goes well beyond Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley’s more vocal efforts. Only Chris Dodd, who’s leaving, did not sign this letter.
A lot of people thought this wouldn’t happen at all. Instead, every single returning Democrat wants a change. And if they all stay strong on January 5, they’ll get it to happen. Just because all Democrats want something they call a change, they won’t necessarily get there. The rule changes sought have to be narrowed down and codified into a package. That will not lead to the end of the filibuster, but it could lead to the end of the filibuster as we know it.
As I’ve said, the rule changes fall into two buckets: 1) saving time, and 2) making them filibuster. Ending the filibuster of the motion to proceed, something that McConnell spokesman Don Stewart calls “insignificant” in this article, would save 30 hours of post-cloture time. Forcing 40 members on the floor to sustain a filibuster makes them filibuster.
If this holds, the most consequential day of the next two years will happen on January 5.