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. facepalm

    " it will destroy relations between the two parties and lead to massive gridlock in the chamber."

    What idiots – that is already the state of things and is exactly what this reform is designed to CORRECT

    January 24, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Clearthinkin

    it still exists as a mechanism to protect the rights of the minority, which is how the Republicans have used it during the healthcare debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has used his prerogative to behave as an autocrat, stifling free and open debate by determining which amendments will be allowed before a bill is on the floor. This makes it nearly impossible for the Republicans to offer amendments—unless they rely on the threat of filibuster.

    January 24, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  3. Matt

    Look at this quote, just look at it:
    "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."

    Yes, if Democrats don't let Republicans keep filibustering every attempt to actually pass some legislation, we'll get massive gridlock. COME ON!

    January 24, 2013 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  4. joe

    Go back to making them actually talk non-stop for forty-eight hours or more, and broadcast every stupid wasteful minute of it to their home districts. That should put an end to filibusters real quick.

    January 24, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  5. blake

    McConnell, don't be a fool and give away the farm. The Democrats cannot be trusted.

    January 24, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. Facts don't Lie

    "But we don't like Obama and that's the only control we have right now!" "WAAAAH!!!" Get over GOP you LOST for the second election in a row and haven't even won the popular vote since Hector was a puppy. Wake up and smell the coffee and stop drinking the tea

    January 24, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  7. CBP

    If these changes are adopted then the Senate will begin to do the work assigned to it. No one member should have so much power that he just has to say he will filibuster and every one else stops their work until this one Senator moves on. For those who constantly remind us about our actions these Senators are not following their own advice. They are certain that their way is correct and every one else is wrong.

    While Reid and McConnell are talking about teh filibuster, etc., they might try to talk to one another about the way their members behave during committee hearings. The absolute partisanship yesterday was very embarrassing for us. There is no way that these Senators have the ultimate knowledge to speak as some of them did. It was so clear that some of them did not have the knowledge base to make their statements and were using their time to pontificate. Of course we have seen this before by the likes of McCarthy and a few others. However, yesterday the Secretary of State came before Congress to answer questions. It was not the time to rebuke her testimony, to make accusations, or to decide what should or should not happen when they did not have all the facts. The Republicans took the time to accuse the Secretary of State of wrong-doing because they were sure their view was accurate. This was not the time for partisan politics particularly when these same people voted to cut funding for security. Some of these men had gone to Cairo in support of the new government and once again their actions are based on their own decisions and not on any reality of what is happening in Egypt. What about he Senator who rebuked Israel and decided that he knew what needed to be done. Of course these men do not have experience with diplomacy. They require an inordinate amount of security and then spend their time finding the facts they wish to enunciate. There are always issues because no one person has all the answers. To sit in judgement of another person when you do not have all the facts is an embarrassment and do not want to listen to the person giving the testimony before asking their questions or giving their own views.

    January 24, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  8. Name StevieMac

    Filibustering, gerrymandering, minority voter supression, climate-change denying, assault-weapon supporting, "social-conservatism": these are the GOP's bold initiatives going forward...hmm; I wonder why the elections turned out the way they did?

    January 24, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. An outsider

    Filibuster is a nonsense! Is there such a thing in any other country? Do you use filibuster in your family, school or any other organization? It should be entirely eliminated. There are people you cannot talk with, they make all the talk. That is filibuster. Everything should be at the ballot: if Americans elected its representatives, let the majority of those representatives vote and decide. That is the will of the nation; why should a few talk and talk until they kill a bill?. Is that democracy or chaos?

    January 24, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  10. Alfuso

    He'll just called. They need a Zanboni.

    January 24, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  11. JonWNC

    The filibuster is NOT a constitutional check/balance. It's a construct of the Senate.... it definitely wasn't part of the Founding Fathers' vision.

    January 24, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  12. penguin

    Our Founding fathers did not create the filibuster nor did they create the House Rule that only the Speaker can bring up bills for a vote. Both the Senate and House made rules assure that majority does not rule

    January 24, 2013 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  13. CP in FL

    Sorry about the multiple posts. All my posts were going to moderation. I guess that is the new policy.

    January 24, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  14. Conservative Republicans for AMERICA

    The filibuster protects the American people from the insane socialist ideas that the progressives come up with.
    Leave the filibuster in place.

    January 24, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  15. Not the droid you're looking for

    I can hardly believe Reid is honestly willing to do this. He must be very confident that the Democrats will control the Senate for the foreseeable future. The reason that Senate leaders have always been leary of changing the rules is because the Senate gives the minority much more ability to influence policy than the House does. With our dichotomous political system, you never know when your side is going to wind up in the minority. So if you change the rules to hurt the minority, you're really just hurting yourself down the road. The majority already has the advantage, getting a larger advantage while your on top hardly justifies giving any influence you might have while your down away.

    January 24, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  16. Jeff--Former Republican

    It's all lip service, they have no intentions of making any changes of substance.

    January 24, 2013 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  17. nomad2003

    they can not agree now.. who is going to judge if it is relevant ... from the article " ...with the caveat that if an amendment isn't relevant to the legislation at hand, it would be subject to a 60-vote threshold."

    and when Reid was in the minority he would not let the rules be changed...

    January 24, 2013 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Robin Jones

    Be careful what you ask for, because your party could end up on the other side of the filibuster issue after any election.

    January 24, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  19. LoisT

    Before simply reciting the talking points of liberal media outlets I suggest making sure you take a look at the following:
    1. What exactly a filibuster is in terms of cloture filings and votes
    2. The actual data on filibusters over the years, especially as it correlates to the Senate majority party at the time of the filings
    3. Why our Founding Fathers and other great political thinkers had concerns about tyranny of the majority and how they intended to prevent it. As part of this fact gathering take a look at parliamentary procedure and consider why the experts of the last few hundred years decided that certain kinds of motions should require 2/3 approval to pass, rather than 50% +1.
    4. Remember the adage "Be careful what you ask for, you may get it" and be sure you can live with what your advocating when your party is in the minority.

    January 24, 2013 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  20. LoisT

    "Do you use filibuster in your family, school or any other organization?" Yes. It won't be called a filibuster, but if your organization utilizes standard parliamentary procedure, it will require 2/3 approval to pass certain motions, like those to end debate and move to a vote. For instance, every school PTA I've ever seen uses Robert's Rules of Order.

    January 24, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  21. Ancient Texan

    Reid was almost in a panic when the GOP talked of using the option to do away with filibuster when he was minority leader.

    January 24, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  22. Greenspam

    Filibuster is a bad idea. Trust me. No good has ever come out of filibuster.

    January 24, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Facts don't Lie

    @ Robin Jones....
    "Be careful what you ask for, because your party could end up on the other side of the filibuster issue after any election"

    Very true, though the way it's been going I doubt if the GOP will be winning too many more Senate seats any time soon, plus had the tables been turned and the Democrats were the minority, had a Republican POTUS, and filbustered as much as the Republicans did under Obama you can't tell me they would not be wanting to change the rules. Mitch Mc would be crying so much it would be heard from hither to yonder.

    January 24, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  24. NickAnast

    Let's face it, if the Republicans ever regain control of the Senate, their first order of business will be to eliminate the filibuster completely. No way they'll let the Democrats block their fascist agenda.

    January 24, 2013 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  25. kica

    This was such bull!! Reid CAVED!! It still takes a super majority and it can still be silent. Basically NO CHANGE...

    January 24, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
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