Washington (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has put off for another day a potentially ugly fight over filibuster reform, a Democratic leadership aide said Wednesday.
The issue was set to come to a head Thursday when Reid was considering forcing a major change of Senate rules – over the objections of Republicans - that would have made it harder for GOP senators to filibuster beginning debate on measures they oppose or want to amend.
Reid had threatened to use a parliamentary tactic, available only on the first day of a new congressional session, to change Senate rules with just 51 votes when a supermajority of 67 is typically required. Republicans fiercely oppose the tactic they call the "nuclear option" and said it would lead to a meltdown of comity in the chamber.
But with negotiations now underway between Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over a possible compromise, Reid has decided to hold off forcing the change, at least temporarily. An aide explained Reid will use a technical parliamentary procedure that will keep the first legislative day open indefinitely as talks continue. That way if the talks fail, he would preserve the right to make the change with just 51 votes.
Democrats argue Republicans have overused filibusters and created dysfunction in the Senate. Republicans counter that they rely on filibusters to stall action on bills because Democrats routinely refuse to allow GOP amendments.