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. Sparknut

    We used to live with majority rule. I thought that was a basic rule of democracy. But the filibuster allows a minority to rule and block meaningful progress.

    January 24, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  2. Mike Texoma

    We need a set of rules that gives minorities a voice short of control, so that legislation gets an up or down vote and presidential nominations do not die of old age in the Senate.

    January 24, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  3. labman57

    A familiar pattern has re-emerged. The Republicans in Congress tend to be ruthless, whereas the Congressional Democrats tend to be gutless.

    January 24, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  4. Robert

    Fun Fact:

    "The record for the longest filibuster goes to U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke for 24 hours and 18 minutes against the Civil Rights Act of 1957, according to U.S. Senate records."

    January 24, 2013 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  5. Boohincus

    The silent filibuster continues anon and who really believes that the Republican standing filibuster on ALL legislation will be even slightly effected? Reid is a worm. I think old sloth face McConnell owns him. He's probably quietly telling his wing nutter piers that Reid's his "beach." Looks like he is! It's pathetic.

    January 24, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  6. DocHollywood

    It looks like Harry Reid pussed out again. He should lose his leadership position. In Congress, you're a minority party for one of 2 reasons. Either your districts are gerrymandered, or the American people prefer the other party. And while a minority party should have some input and protection (unlike the House, in which case the minority party might as well go home), they should not be able to stop confirmations with a secret hold, nor block legislation without actually getting up and speaking. Looks like Reid and McConnell just put the "fun" back in dysfunctional.

    January 24, 2013 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  7. tarura

    Idiots, opening door wide for democrats fascist agenda.

    January 24, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  8. MS

    "it would have destroyed relations between the two parties and lead to massive gridlock in the chamber"

    How exactly is this different from the last two years?

    January 24, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  9. Peter Q Wolfe

    Why not eliminate he unrelated admendments in bills? The 60 up or down vote is stupid and tyranous and filled with corruption myself. I'd like to see all of these rules favoring either party be eliminated myself. The Speaker Rule is also another stupid rule as well. I don't care what party you are part of these are stupid.

    January 24, 2013 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  10. John Tighe

    Will today's actions really change anything?

    January 24, 2013 11:27 pm at 11:27 pm |
  11. Dan

    All wind coming from the white house could power a city..Need to save it...Making we could stop the BS to

    January 24, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  12. JG

    Dear Mitch McConnell:
    No Senate Minority Leader have ever proclaimed that the "NUMBER ONE priority of Congress was to prevent the re-election of the current president" either.
    When faced with total obstructionism....the Dems responded with procedural reform. As they should have.

    Bravo!

    January 24, 2013 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  13. don

    This is dumb and makes no sense. SOS, what was Reid and Democrats thinking? We need to start getting things done. Where the heck is Obama?! LOL

    January 24, 2013 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  14. Dan

    This a great step reforming filibusters tactics with our new Ipods we can get the same results

    January 24, 2013 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  15. Tom

    I hope God's about to put a big fork in this nation because we are done! We are becoming come corrupt yr after yr and are going away from what made this nation and reading scripture i know we are in the final days. Praise Jesus for that because it's getting harder and harder to live in the nation of satanism (aka America).

    January 24, 2013 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  16. AgrippaMT

    I'm sorry, but I feel Harry Reid sold us out on this filibuster issue. He is old, obviously senile and needs to retire. Put Chuck Schumer in his place and things will improve dramatically.

    January 24, 2013 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  17. Richard

    People here think the bill is a good idea, but the last, best option to oppose bad legislation is being eliminated. More democratic freedom being wiped out.

    January 25, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  18. bman

    Yes the words, and the postures are all derived. Republicans need to start breathing oxygen again.

    January 25, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  19. TomNPitt

    Republican's are pursuing aggressive change agendas where there proposals are in the minority, and their state government is the majority. If this were a republican majority in the senate, there would be no filibuster provision, and the votes would be 51 for passage. This minority in the senate is almost as powerful as their majority in the congress. Good thing the public is on the side of the democrats – right now. Those days will change, and the conservatives will roll through the democrats agendas like shermen through atlanta. Those days will come, and the republicans wil not be as fair as these foolish democrats want to say they are. The big difference between republicans and democrats – the republicans don't care if they have any friends in washington. Their friends are outside washington, and they have big ole' check books!!

    January 25, 2013 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  20. Actually

    The GOP changed the rules of the House of reps just a few days ago. No coverage in the media, done on a simple party vote (yes not a 60% majority).. guess they used the nuclear option. But no, its only called that by the press when the Democrats try to use their elected powers.

    January 25, 2013 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  21. Orwell seen it before

    Considering the brightest republicans think the universe is less than 6000 years, and liberals were able to conceptualize atoms and nuclear reactions; I find it amusing the republicans call 51% a nuclear option.

    Get real, it has been the way the president gets elected since the beginning of the US.

    Bunch of backward fools, with their self serving paranoids claiming conservatism is their exclusive right and domain.

    Most of them do not understand science or what comes out their orifices!!!

    "Obama is out to annihilate the GOP!"
    What a load of K-rap for their backward wingnuts!

    Sounds like words of desperation.
    Get them diapers before they dump.

    Country needs strong leadership.
    The GOP is sub-par & sellouts
    Sorry boys, you flunked romper room.

    January 25, 2013 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  22. Reid Caves

    Mr. Reid, you promised time and time again to change the rules regarding the filibuster, and then when you have the chance - finally - you don't do it. Unreal. Just watch the tea-ba99ers go right back to filibustering everything. Ugh.

    January 25, 2013 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  23. Fed UP

    Another fig leaf to protect the rich and powerful.

    January 25, 2013 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  24. jmecam

    proud to see our leaders in the senate cleaning house......now we need to focus on Congress......don't worry i have 2 ECO-Friendly Trucks coming your way and it full of plenty of pine-sol...first of all...representatives are not to shoot can spray into any other representative at all times.....tea partiers...this rule is for u especially.....but seriously you need to get in there and clean you house and make it work for this country...i mean seriously Boehner is basically the CEO of the House...soo it amazes he gets relelected after being a huge part of throwing us over the cliff and struggling with getting his own parties votes.....the House has been a complete mess for 4 years now...it has been where good ideas go to die....follow your fellow senators and make these changes to better serve america and not just your special interest

    January 25, 2013 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  25. Bhimrao

    It is amazing; it is great that the Senate leaders have agreed to at least tame 'filibuster' and try to speed up their business.
    Thank you senators; you together can indeed do 'we the people' some and maybe even a lot of good.

    January 25, 2013 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
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