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

    This is such a sham. Nothing will change and the repubs will keep blocking everything. Reid has no balls

    January 24, 2013 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Woman In California

    what Republicans call the "nuclear option" – it will destroy relations between the two parties and lead to massive gridlock in the chamber.

    I suppose gridlock doesn't already exist. This proposal at its worst, would be an overall improvement from what we've experienced the past few years. Does filibustering your own proposal come to mind?

    January 24, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. Won't Help

    As long as the GOP represents the minority, their only viable tactic will be to stall the opposition. They have no ability to prosecute their agenda until they throw some interests out of the clown car.

    January 24, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  4. Donna

    I wouldn't trust Harry Reid as far as I could throw him. His word is worthless.

    January 24, 2013 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Truth

    McConnell and the Republicans have done nothing over the last 4+ years to deserve the kind of respect that Harry Reid is affording them.

    I am positive if the Republicans had the majority they would have gone full steam ahead and made the reforms to carry through their agenda without caring whether the Democrats liked it or not.

    Just look at how their governors with the help of their majorities in some of the state Senate houses, have lied and deceived their electorate to ram through legislation without caring about the people who voted them in or the Democratic opposition.
    They only care about the agenda of their billionaire donors. Wake up Harry Reid!!!

    January 24, 2013 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. bcrunner

    The Republicans have used the fillibuster 380 times during the past 4 years.. More than twice the number of times from the previous congress and more than total combined over I can't recall how many years.. maybe ever.. Let's not forget that they also used it to fillibuster their own bills.. And, as you will recall, the Republicans threatened the "nuclear" option against the Democrats. What are the Democrats supposed to do? Roll over? Compared to the Republicans, the Democrats were angels..

    January 24, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. bcrunner

    @Donna: Why? Is McConnell's word worth more? Really? The man who was willing to destroy the country just to make president Obama a one-term president?

    January 24, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  8. Zee

    Brian, neither does Senator Feinstein; what's your point?

    January 24, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. petemg

    This filibustering was okay when Democrats were the minority. But because the GOP is the minority it is different. To me it is just another way to rid the Nation of all but one party. We need more than one party otherwise we no longer have a democracy. Wait Democrats when and if Obama gets rid of the GOP, you will be next because a dictatorship only needs itself.

    January 24, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. Need to move away from the 2 party system

    Have you met a politician that you do trust? They are ALL cut from the same cloth! It doesnt matter if you are a repub or demo -the outcome is always the same. They "vote"/approve what is in the best interest for them not us (the people who supposedly voted them into office). The system is broken and we need to look for CHANGE...

    January 24, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. jj

    I hope Congress is watching...maybe they'll learn something about working together.

    January 24, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  12. Ted van Tol

    Is filibusteing constitutional? If so, they must repeal it totaly because it's a very old fashion just as the second ammendment and the right to bear arms. It's 2013!.

    January 24, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  13. Rhetor

    This is all well and good, but if they were to actually put some teeth into this, they'd shift the burden of producing votes to the side that's filibustering. That is, if you want to filibuster–great–show us you actually have 40 votes by requiring senators take a public position instead of hiding anonymously in the shadows. This makes a lot far more sense then requiring the majority to scramble for additional votes when they already have enough to pass to legislation.

    January 24, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. LT Fang

    Should've used the nuclear option to its entirety. The annihilation of GOP couldn't come soon enough.

    January 24, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  15. Sam

    Senate Reid is a traitor to the Democrats and the American people. Agreeing with McConnell that the filibusters can go on. Republicans have use this 100s of times to prevent bills being presented or voted upon. Reid must be defeated in 2016 as he does not represent the voice of the people. Also Reid promotes the NRA and its viewpoints.

    January 24, 2013 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  16. skeptic

    What ever happened to democracy which means 51 of 100 votes decides any issue. The filibuster has nothing to do with democracy for Americans but only for prolonging the tenure of senators in the Senate. Between this asinine practice and the gerrymandering that occurs in states, the U.S. has lost its representative democracy.

    January 24, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Republicans; the "Not Intended to be Factually Accurate" Party

    It amazes me that time & time again that the Democrats WUSS OUT when they should pimp slap so sense into the GOP. Republicans ARE NOT honorable and do not play by the rules so why cut them ANY breaks?

    For example, they [the GOP] sneakily GERRY-MANDERED Congressional districts in Virginia on INAGURATION DAY to give themselves an advantage. Why did they wait until the day that Mr. Obama was being swornn in to pull this move? Because 1 Democratic State Senator stated his intention to attend the inaguration of the President of the United States giving them a 20 to 19 vote advantage for 1 day.

    How underhanded and low the REPUBL
    ICAN PARTY has sunk. And yet the Democrats STILL treat them as human equals rather than the Cromagnum, Neanderthals they truly have shown themselves to be. I`d call them worm dung but that wouldn`t be fair . . . to the worm dung.

    January 24, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Art

    I I wonder how appealing this new deal would be to democrats if the republicans had control of the senate. Although unless the Dem's really screw things up somehow. I can never imagine the republicans ever having a majority again. I also believe that Reid will never follow through with his end of the agreement. I have heard him say too many time that he would not even put up for a vote some bills coming out of the house.

    January 24, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  19. tom

    Discord and disucssion is what we need. The majority party always does what they want, Obama rammed through healt care (where was the discussion then?) and spend 4Trillion in 4 years, Bush and his cronies did the same with their programs and spent trilions as well. Neither party is right and neither party is wrong. The only thing that saves the people is the fact that none of these idiots can do what they want in a fast and efficient manner. You still cannot legislate prosperity, ambition or success. You can only level the playing field. None of what has been done in the last 40 years has successfully done that. Trillions spent at home and abroad and the disparities among the people are worse than ever. We need to have the the two extremes of both points of view and we need to have them battle to get to the correct answer. It worked at the begging at the formation of this country.

    January 24, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. khan

    throw the bums out in next elections. no ifs and buts

    January 24, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  21. Russell

    When the Republicans were in the majority and the Democrats were filibustering everything, the Republicans were the ones that came up with the 51 vote option, which was labelled by Democrats and the media as the nuclear option. It was raked over the coals of public opinion to be degrading to the minority party, and therefore to minorities in general. I find it interesting that now that the Democrats are proposing the same thing, the media is 100% behind the idea.

    January 24, 2013 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. Hillcrester

    The most egregious blockage is when a single Senator can stop a vote on a nomination that has a supermajority for approval.

    January 24, 2013 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. Bill in Florida

    Good! Since the President's resounding reelection - in both the electoral and popular votes - we've seen the GOP adopt a surprising amount of sanity in many issues. Let's hope it continues.

    January 24, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  24. TheTruth

    "My number one priority is making sure president Obama is a one-term president". ~Mitch McConnell

    That says it all for me.

    January 24, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  25. John

    It's a really sad statement about our political system that requiring a Filibusterer to actually Filibuster is referred to as a nuclear option.

    Heaven forbid they actually just voted on things - "Yes" if you support it, "No" if you don't. Cut out the ticky-tack rules, eliminate the behind the scenes schenanigans, and VOTE.

    January 24, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
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