Senators agree to Reid and McConnell’s filibuster reform measures
January 24th, 2013
09:01 PM ET
1 year 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. ritmocojo

    These guys really agreed on passing something through? Somebody please pinch me.

    January 24, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  2. Hammerer

    The truth is Reid did not have the votes. Not all Dems are stupid.

    January 24, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. snowdogg

    "a list of reforms that would curb the use of filibusters and streamline other procedures in order to speed up floor action"

    This is GOOD news.

    January 24, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  4. Remi

    What!?! something the senate can agree on? whats next passing bills?

    January 24, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  5. MadDog

    I think that a party wanting to fillibuster should not only be present on the floor (by an interested party) but must speak continuously until the bill dies or the fillibuster is broken. I've had it with the fillibuster being used as a club as a means of being obstructionist. There remains a need for teh fillibuster but to abuse the process such as we've seen over the past 4 years is absurd.

    January 24, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  6. Jay

    @Frank – "far to dumb" / "easier to force threw" – Are you sure you aren't the dumb one?

    January 24, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  7. ER

    The GOP will not let this happen. This is the only way they can continue to sabotage Congress. Take that away and that only leaves reasonable and rational debate ... and even the GOP knows it doesn't have much going for it on those grounds.

    January 24, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  8. JK in Wa

    I'll believe it when I see it. Face it, Dems fall for Repubs cons all the time. I'm afraid nothing will change, but I pray I am wrong.

    January 24, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. carlos

    advise to the repubics: NOTHING IS MORE TERRIBLE THAN TO SEE IGNORANCE IN ACTION......so wise up gop

    January 24, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. canada john

    Hey "the truth", you lie – Mitch McConnell said no such thing. You can take out of context what ever you like to back you position but please don't call it the "the truth"

    January 24, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. kurtinco

    It doesn't sound to me like anything really changed. What about requiring the senator who want to filibuster a bill actually identify themselves? I still like returning to the requirement that they remain on the floor speaking at all times. The truth is, nothing in these changes as outline in this article will actually change anything.

    January 24, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  12. DCJ

    Does ANYBODY care about why the government was designed the way it was?

    To quote George Will "When the founding fathers went to Philadelphia in the summer of 1787, they did not go to create an efficient government, the idea would have horrified them. They wanted a safe government. To which end they created a government full of blacking mechanisms. 3 branches of Government, 2 branches of the legislative branch. Veto. Veto Override. Judicial review. And yet I can think of nothing that that the American people have wanted and intensely and protractedly that they did not eventually get. We have far more to fear from swift than from torpid government."

    January 24, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  13. Namedave

    New rules will not stop the GOP senators from obstructing. Obstructing is the only thing they are good at. A strong Democratic controlled Senate would be able to negotiate with a Republican controlled House. Now Reid and his fellow Democratic senators will still be caught between Republicans in both houses of congress. Reid. grow a pair! Make Republican obstructionists stand and talk if they want to filibuster. This would put the spotlight on their stupidity.

    January 24, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. Jeanneboo

    You mean to tell me we haven't been seeing "massive gridlock in the chamber?"

    January 24, 2013 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  15. Steve

    I don't dare hope. Cooperation in the best interests of the country?

    January 24, 2013 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. FireTheWholeLot

    Sounds like Superbowl weekend at the White House. Congress should charge admission and have lofty commerical slots for big time corporations.

    It's just too bad "the people" couldn't force some of the changes that Congress will have to play by. Definately wouldn't be "business as usual".

    January 24, 2013 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  17. DCJ

    Ooops "BLOCKING" mechanisms.....apologies to Mr. Will

    January 24, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. noteasilyswayed

    Let's see what actually is adopted and if it really changes anything in a significant way..... in other words, I will believe it when I see that new rules are really working. These politicians are masters at making cosmetic changes without producing any significant better results.

    January 24, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. On StreetWise

    When Senate Majority Reid forwards his rule changes bill to the floor, McConnell will pull his ULTIMATE filibuster.

    January 24, 2013 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. CP in FL

    It is time to end the filibuster. The Senate was designed to function by passing laws that a simple majority of the Senators approved. A super majority of 60 votes should not be required to pass legislation. The rules of the Senate can and should be changed at the beginning of this congressional session by a simple majority vote.

    January 24, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  21. CP in FL

    It is time to end the filibuster. The Senate was designed to function by passing laws that a simple majority of the Senators approved. A super majority of sixty votes should not be required to pass legislation. The rules of the Senate can and should be changed at the beginning of this congressional session by a simple majority vote.

    January 24, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  22. CP in FL

    It is time to end the filibuster. The Senate was designed to function by passing laws that a simple majority of the Senators approved.

    January 24, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  23. CP in FL

    It is time to end the filibuster.

    January 24, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  24. CP in FL

    It is time to end the f i l i b u s t e r. The Senate was designed to function by passing laws that a simple majority of the Senators approved. A super majority of 60 votes should not be required to pass legislation. The rules of the Senate can and should be changed at the beginning of this congressional session by a simple majority vote.

    January 24, 2013 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  25. John the Historian

    Why don't people realize the Republican party is only the party of the Christian Right, the corporate elite, the military-industrial complex and the billionaires. That is all you need to know.

    January 24, 2013 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
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