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. us_1776

    Support Senate Resolution 4 for meaningful filibuster reform.

    .

    January 24, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  2. rtk25301

    Well, maybe next time. Sheesh!

    January 24, 2013 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  3. ChallyFever

    Ok. Let’s play a little trivia.
    ----–
    WHO SAID???
    ----–
    "He hasn’t gotten his way. And that is now prompting a change in the Senate rules that really, I think, would change the character of the Senate forever."
    And
    "...and what I worry about is that you would essentially have two chambers. The House and the Senate but you have simply majoritarian absolute power on either side and that’s just not what the founders intended."

    ----–
    ANSWER – Sen. Barack Obama (D – ILL) 4/25/05

    January 24, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. Fed UP

    A filibuster demands the senator making the argument must come to the floor of the Senate to make his/her case anything less is just more of the same.

    January 24, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  5. ChallyFever

    Ok. Let’s play a little MORE trivia.

    WHO SAID???
    ----–
    "This nuclear option is ultimately an example of the arrogance of power. It is a fundamental power grab."
    "…I say to my friends on the Republican side, you may own the field right now, but you won’t own it forever. And I pray God when the (Political party name here ) take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing."
    ----–
    ANSWER -Sen. Joseph Biden (D – DE) 5/23/05

    January 24, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  6. ChallyFever

    Ok. Let’s play a little MORE trivia.

    WHO SAID???
    ----–
    "Mr. President, the right to extend the debate is never more important, when one party controls Congress and the White House. In these cases, a filibuster serves as a check on power and preserves our limited government.
    "…but no we are not going to follow the Senate rules– no...because of the arrogance of power of this Republican administration."
    ----–
    ANSWER -Sen. Harry Reid (D – NV) 5/18/05

    January 24, 2013 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  7. Donkey Party

    Some of the comments you right-wingers leave just goes to prove to anyone who's reading them how insanely ignorant, illiterate, hateful and racist you all are.

    January 24, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  8. ChallyFever

    Ok. Let’s play a little MORE trivia.

    WHO SAID???
    ----–
    "As majority leader, I intend to run the Senate with respect for the rules and for the minority rights the rules protect. The Senate was not established to be efficient. Sometimes the rules get in the way of efficiency. The Senate was established to make sure that minorities are protected. Majorities can always protect themselves, but minorities cannot. That is what the Senate is all about."
    ----–
    ANSWER -Sen. Reid, Congressional Record, S.11591, 12/8/06

    January 24, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  9. glorydays

    If ever there was a threat to democracy, it's the filibuster.

    January 24, 2013 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  10. brian

    No senator should be able to filibuster without being on the floor. If it is such a crucial issue that they need to hold up business then they ought to be in the chamber for the entire time.

    January 24, 2013 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  11. BudW

    McConnell you idiot!, Time for house cleaning of Republican leadership they are worthless.

    January 24, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  12. BeverlyNC

    After 386 fillibusters by Republicans to block ALL legislation for the past 4 YEARS (when the normal is ZERO), I would not negotiate anything with the lying, full of hate, betrayer of People Republicans who let no jobs, infrastructure, housing assistance, or veteran aid bills to be come up for a vote – not even allowed to come up for debate. Senator Richard Burr (R) from NC even filibustered his OWN bill on veteran healthcare benefits! It's absurd and all who participated in this obstruction should be thrown out of their seat in 2014, especially Mitch McConnell.

    January 24, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  13. rs

    Republicans have used the filibuster more in the last 4 years than in the entire history of the United States. That my friends is obstruction. Perhaps each party should get 5 filibusters a year- and no more. The GOP's failure to realize that 49% IS NOT a majority has clouded what is left of their good judgement- and continues to ruin what is left of their reputation.

    January 24, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  14. rs

    blake
    McConnell, don't be a fool and give away the farm. The Democrats cannot be trusted.
    __________________________________
    Too late, Blake, the idiot McConnell has destroyed your party in his irrational pursuit of Obama, the"one-term president".

    January 24, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  15. LIbertyGuy

    The purpose of this is to prevent lone wolf senators from standing up for the public by preventing bad legislation from passing i.e. filibustering it. Not to mention if we ever had a third party member sin the senate.

    January 24, 2013 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  16. Larry L

    @blake

    McConnell, don't be a fool and give away the farm. The Democrats cannot be trusted.
    ===================================================================================================== Too late to ask McConnell to not be a fool. He filibustered his own proposal. Nothing else needs to be said about who can be trusted.

    January 24, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  17. Dave Green

    Here we go again: People complain endlessly that congress gets nothing done, but let them try to reform something in order to streamline processes and make things more efficient and the rhetoric comes down faster than snow in a late winter blizzard.
    Both parties accusing the other party of trying to dupe them into something. No one wants bi-partisanship..they want to destroy the other party completely and leave themselves as the sole voice of the country. Isn't anyone else tired of it?

    January 24, 2013 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  18. DEcember 2012

    How the hell did the Democrats lose this fight? What the hell, Harry Reid? Didn't 300+ filibusters tell you anything? There is no good will and you should have no expectations of such from the Republicans. Welcome to more gridlock folks, 4 more years of the same idiocy.

    January 24, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  19. MikeFright

    How would I feel about constraining the filibuster if my party were in the minority? My party is always in the minority; I’m an independent. I’m in favor of letting the majority party enact the centrist parts of its agenda – you know, govern – without the fanatical fringe of either party having veto power. Driving any vehicle involves making continuous small corrections to the right and left to keep the vehicle tracking in the desired direction. Americans have been doing that with their government for a long time, but now that many of our national politicians have put party above country in their loyalty hierarchy, too many of our leaders would rather see the ship of state scuttled than their opponents succeed.

    January 24, 2013 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  20. Uh-Clem

    The House Majority along with the Senate Majority have made a laughing stock of our government by failing to do their jobs and then blaming each other in addition to the president for the logjam. We are already at the "Toxic" point, put on your big boy/girl pants and take a stand for the people who elected you.

    January 24, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  21. Uh-Clem

    The House Majority along with the Senate Minority have made a laughing stock of our government by failing to do their jobs and then blaming each other in addition to the president for the logjam. We are already at the "Toxic" point, put on your big boy/girl pants and take a stand for the people who elected you.

    January 24, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  22. Honestly

    They 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.
    --------------------------------------–
    Honestly, the GOP just doesn't get it. Do they really believe they can say anything without being challenged for their audacity? So the GOP is now worried about destroying relations between the two parties and creating excess gridlock? Ha! The GOP has become a pathetic party consiting of old disgruntled white men.

    January 24, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  23. AaronT3

    Harry Reid what a let down.. President Obama and Vice President Biden are working their butts off to get things done and you let this filibuster fiasco continue!!! You could have ended it now we have to wait till 2014 to vote them (AND You) out which may be too late with all of the gerrymandering going on. President Obama can't even catch a break from his own party, now I see why he refers to "Congress" as the problem not just Republicans!!!!

    January 24, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  24. roro

    Shame on you, Harry Reid. You're a disgrace to the Democrat party. Why are you letting the minority party run the show? Have you forgotten we won the last election because we wanted progressive government? You're a fool.

    January 24, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  25. Jean Sartre

    Time will tell, but from what I know about this "compromise" it does precious little in terms of meaningful changes...

    January 24, 2013 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
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