Senators agree to Reid and McConnell’s filibuster reform measures
January 24th, 2013
09:01 PM ET
2 years ago

Senators agree to Reid and McConnell’s filibuster reform measures

(CNN) - Democrats and Republicans in the Senate overwhelmingly agreed late Thursday on language reforming filibusters, passing the measures agreed to earlier in the day by Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

The two leaders proposed to their caucuses earlier a list of reforms to curb the use of filibusters and streamline other procedures in order to speed up floor action. The measures required the support of each party's caucus.

Neither Democratic senators nor a GOP aide said members had voiced major issues with the proposals prior to the vote.

A filibuster is a tactic used in the Senate to delay or prevent a vote on legislation. Reid and McConnell's measure, according to one Senate aide, offered a compromise to 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.

The new procedure also limits debate on some presidential nominations that require Senate approval.

Senate Democrats have complained that the minority Republicans deliberately overused 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 to change the body’s rules that Republicans called the “nuclear option.” That method to change the Senate rules would require 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.

The measure went to a vote and passed without Democrats invoking the “nuclear option.”

"No party has ever broken the rules of the Senate to change those rules. I’m glad such an irreparably damaging precedent will not be set today," McConnell said in a statement as the vote became clear. "We’ve avoided the nuclear option, and we’ve reiterated that any changes to the Standing Rules of the Senate still require 67 votes to end debate."

Republicans had said if Democrats pushed the reforms through the "nuclear option," it would have destroyed relations between the two parties and lead to massive gridlock in the chamber.

President Barack Obama issued a statement after the vote saying he hoped "today’s bipartisan agreement will pave the way for the Senate to take meaningful action in the days and weeks ahead."

"Too often over the past four years, a single senator or a handful of senators has been able to unilaterally block or delay bipartisan legislation for the sole purpose of making a political point," he said. The statement specifically identified Obama’s desire the Senate consider legislation on gun violence, immigration and the economy.

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."


Filed under: Harry Reid • Mitch McConnell • Senate
soundoff (170 Responses)
  1. Libdumb

    Like a bunch of kids in Public School playing King of the Mountain. Why can't they address the problems of this Country which are taxes and spending. What a lot of BS.

    January 24, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  2. critical thinking

    They are just negiotiating ahead of the 2014 senate races when the republicans will take control of the senate and the house..poor Obama, he will be on permenant vacation.

    January 24, 2013 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  3. vbscript2

    I find it hilarious that the articles says Republicans are calling this the 'nuclear option,' considering Democrats coined the term a few years back when Republicans controlled the Senate. Mr. Reid, if you press forward with the 51-vote measure, I do hope you remember that when you resume your prior role as Senate Minority Leader (assuming, of course, that you get to keep your seat and the party leadership role.)

    January 24, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  4. Jeff O'Dette

    The tearepubs filibuster their OWN bills. The only way to fix this country is to VOTE them OUT!!! SIMPLE!!! ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS VOTE THEM OUT!!!! FOREVER!!!!!

    January 24, 2013 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  5. kim

    If Reid really doesn't want to govern, then why doesn't he just retire? Negotiating with Republicans is like making deals with the Mafia. Republicans don't want to actually have to defend their bills with verbal argument, because that would take all of three minutes, then they wouldn't have anything relevant to say. As usaual, Harry Reid is caving into Mitch McConnell. I wonder what kind of blackmail ol'Turtle Head has got on Reid.

    January 24, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  6. DumbasRocks [R]s

    [R]s trying to save some of the last vestigial pertinence thay have in DC, before 2014.

    That's not to say the [R] party is dead, per se. There are way too many slack-jawed dolts in the American electorate for the party to become extinct.

    January 24, 2013 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Team USA

    We (the people) may just have to do this the old fashion way and defeat Sen. McConnell in 2014. If there is continuation of filibuster abuse in the United States Senate. Personally I like the Claire McCaskell method of stealth campaigning for the far right extremist GOP primary candidate. It either defeats the GOP incumbent a-la Tod Akin or pushes an incumbent to the far right a-la Mitt Romney. In either case it is much easy for a Democrat to win a general election in a red wide election. Ya'all need to to be involved with grassroots organizations to make this a reality.

    January 24, 2013 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. ThinkAgain

    @Libdumb: "What a lot of BS."

    The GOP has been continually trying to thwart the will of the American people who elected a Democratic President TWICE. Democrats not only gained seats in the House and Senate in 2012, but got 1.3 million MORE votes in the House than their Republican counterparts.

    I'm frankly tired of Repubs acting like a bunch of spoiled children and not having the stones to stand up and show their faces and do the talking when they filibuster. If they are such patriots, then they should have the courage of their convictions so we can all see for ourselves just who is bringing the Senate to a halt day after day after day.

    January 24, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. JT

    Who wants to bet this change gets filibustered?

    January 24, 2013 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. chill

    It's a good start from what can be gleaned from this article. I think the GOP has a point in that they should be able to bring some number fo germane ammendments to the floor for a vote when a measure is being considered. i thinkt here needs to be some limit however to keep the minority from simply stalling the final vote. And I think far more legislation should get the up or down vote it deserves at the 51 vote threshold instead of requiring 60 pro votes for almost anything to happen. And Executive branch nominees should get a vote period. You can't amend them and they shouldn't be held hostage.

    January 24, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  11. Frank

    ...in the end you get the government you deserve , the average American is now far to dumb to bother with any logic or details when it comes to how they are to be RULED WITH AN IRON FIST ! LOL
    Fun Fact – democrats as a minority used the filibuster 290 times from 04 to 06 to block votes on bills in the senate and to hold up budget negotiation ...but now its an "emergency" and they mus change how america has been run for the past 60 years / this will make the NEW gun ban easier to force threw

    January 24, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  12. Concerned Educator, Mississippi

    @ vbscript2, don't worry, he will keep his seat and his post. We are fired up and ready to go! There are organizations already working on the 2014 Senate races.

    January 24, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. binian

    Seems there should be a simple rule...if you want to filibuster you need to do it the old fashioned way, stand on the floor of the senate and keep talking for hours. no bathroom breaks, no rushing off to a fundraiser, no just threatening to filibuster with no intention of carrying it through. See how long a real filibuster would last.

    January 24, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. JeffinIL

    If they're going to filibuster, make them have to keep talking until they can't take it anymore. I recommend Depends in order to hold the floor for a longer period of time.

    January 24, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Jules

    Oh my gosh, having a real filibuster requiring people to speak during the filibuster would destroy relationahips between the two parties? Really – amazing that you don't see them as already destroyed as the GOP filibusters everything so President Obama can't win the day for the American people. You want to hold your seats? Pass some the bills in a bipartisan fashion and don't always say no.

    January 24, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  16. columbus

    Wow, this is big, thank goodness our government can get things done!

    January 24, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  17. Vijay

    I like it, Last four years we had record 430 filibuster for the passage of bills. If we don't have that, Our economy will be very much improved than what we have currently.

    January 24, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  18. Facts don't Lie

    @ binian

    I agree with you 100% ENOUGH of this filibustering from your barber shop or when you're about to take a shower or something of the like. Come to the floor and say WHY you are doing it and just because you don't like President Obama is no longer good enough.

    January 24, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Rob

    Making a deal with Harry Reid is a waste of breath. All he is concerned withis his own slf importance. The man is a liar and idiot.

    January 24, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  20. Miss Demeanor

    RE: "Why can't they address the problems of this Country which are taxes and spending..."

    There are no other problems? How about the fact that 2/3 of voters have an IQ roughly between 85 and 120... and they can only 'understand' oversimplified explanations, ( eg: "...all our problems are caused by high taxes and over-spending") so they vote for politicians who tell them what they want to hear (simple explanations... and the dumbest of them all blame all our woes on 'welfare queens' who exist only to steal the hard-earned wages from ordinary folks and thus will destroy the Patriotic Christian Paradise that our founders envisioned for gun-loving 'real' Uhmurikins like you?

    January 24, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  21. Rudy NYC

    The silent filibuster must end. Both parties know it.

    January 24, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  22. finally

    I doubt it will be enough, but it is progress. It is unfortunate that the GOP requires legislation instead of responsbility on this, but, so be it.

    January 24, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. roooth

    "Republicans...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."

    And that would be different from the last 4 years how?

    Are we caring what the GOP thinks? I mean, really, do they have ANY credibility on whining about the danger of potential gridlock after four years of unrelenting seditious, and horribly damaging, obstructionism?

    I say, quote W, "I have earned political capitol and I intend to spend it", and Darth Cheney, "Deficits don't matter", at them, push them aside, and do what the majority of us elected them to do.

    End the filibuster. Get to work. Let's start getting some serious stuff done.

    If we let the GOP distract us with everything they whine about and get themselves in a lather over, we'll miss opportunities. Forget them. They are slavers in a post-civil war world. Their time is ended and they refuse to admit it. They're terrified and angry – but we can't go back to the world they want just to make them feel better. Adapt or die – most of them will die never understanding how the world has changed and they are anachronisms.

    January 24, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  24. NorsKR

    I don't even trust reports of gridlock. I remember too well how Congress under Clinton was frequently said to be gridlocked but they were actually busily passing bills or confirming appointments that furthered the liberal agenda. Hold onto the filibuster, Repubs! I wish you WERE blocking all of the Dem agenda. Remember the procedural chicanery that passed Obamacare. It would b better to have stricter rules but you can't, so keep what you have. (If Nancy Pelosi condemns you, you're doing your job.)

    January 24, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  25. Ron

    Rules should benefit the process, not the majority party. If a person feels strongly for or against something, they should have no problem addressing their support or concerns in an open forum.

    January 24, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
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