Reid issues ultimatum on filibuster reform

posted at 9:01 am on January 23, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

If you thought Harry Reid had given up on filibuster reform, think again.  Reid issued an ultimatum yesterday to Mitch McConnell on reaching a compromise for a new set of rules that would make the filibuster more difficult to apply. If McConnell doesn’t meet his deadline, Reid says he’s prepared to go nuclear:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that if he was working with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to strike a deal on the filibuster, but that if an agreement was not reached in the next two days, he would move ahead with the so-called “nuclear option” and change the filibuster rules with just 51 votes. …

“We had another meeting today, and I think that within the next 24-36 hours we can get something that we agree on,” Reid went on. “If not, we’re gonna move forward with what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that.”

Reid would change the rules of the filibuster, forbidding the minority from filibustering on the motion to proceed. In order to filibuster a bill, lawmakers would have to hold the floor “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style.

To make that change, Reid would have to invoke the nuclear option, changing the rules of the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditionally required supermajority.

Will the caucus support Reid on the nuclear option?  That’s a good question.  Right now Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (with the inclusion of two independents caucusing with Reid), and fairly good control of the chamber.  However, at least a half-dozen Senate Democrats will either retire or face red-state voters in 2014, and the remaining members of the caucus may recall that the President’ party traditionally does very poorly in second-term midterm elections.  Whatever they try to jam through in a nuclear option in 2013 may end up leaving them subject to the same rules as the minority in 2015 — and Reid will have set a precedent for rule-changes that would allow Republicans in the majority to make those rules even worse.

Plus, Reid isn’t the only one with nuclear options in his pocket.  The Senate runs to a large degree on manners.  The chamber routinely dispenses with lengthy bill readings on the basis of unanimous consent, mainly because most Senators wouldn’t pay attention to the readings in the first place.  That allows for a huge increase in efficiency, especially when one considers the length of the bills, and the fact that they need to be read (or the reading waived) multiple times as part of the process of legislation.  If Republicans withhold unanimous consent on all business, they can bring the Senate to a crawl — even on budgets, which aren’t subject to filibusters.  And that’s just one “nuclear” option that Republicans can use to make Reid’s management of the Senate a nightmare.

Both parties have had enough of parliamentary tactics, and both parties need to give.  It makes sense to reform filibusters to restrict them to blocking floor votes and to force the filibustering Senators to have public skin in the game rather than just a backbench silent filibuster as we’ve seen for several decades.  However, Reid has to quit blocking the minority party from offering amendments by using his privilege to “fill the tree,” too.  Like so many issues in Washington, there is some obvious middle ground here, and perhaps the “ultimatum” will just serve to focus the effort on that middle ground in order to get filibuster reform out of the way.

Update: Here’s some more information from The Hill which makes it seem as though Reid just wants to get this fight off the table:

Filibuster reform has become a headache for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Reid is stuck in the middle, between liberal senators pushing hard for drastic reform and senior Democrats balking at changing the culture of the upper chamber. …

A coalition of liberal groups met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA) shortly after Obama won reelection to set strategy for advancing his second-term agenda. One of the primary goals emerging from the meeting was enacting filibuster reform.

Senate Democrats debated how to proceed during a lunch meeting that stretched for more than an hour Tuesday — and left the room with little resolved.

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wheres a gang of 14 to stop this,oh only if its a rep controlled senate.

ChunkyLover on January 23, 2013 at 9:06 AM

If Harry Reid hasn’t proven that he isn’t a child molester, do we really want him thinking about the children?

Flange on January 23, 2013 at 9:08 AM

Looks like the mask is slipping off the petty tyrants.

Galt2009 on January 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM

I’m ok with limiting filibusters to actual floor votes (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington stuff) because it forces Senators to stand on their principles and not just hide in the back benches. BUT Reid needs to quit it with the “filling the tree” nonsense! He already stripped the minority of certain rights to attach amendments in the last Congress by using the point-of-order tactic known as the nuclear option so he’d better be careful. The Repubs will have a long memory of the Reid Years in the Senate and they will be well within their rights to exact as much pain on a new Democratic minority as Harry Reid did during his tenure.

powerpickle on January 23, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Mitch will cave…Harry won’t have to compromise

The gop Senate would not do the same once they gain the majority sad to say…..they’ll be mr nice guys

cmsinaz on January 23, 2013 at 9:12 AM

powerpickle on January 23, 2013 at 9:11 AM

They don’t think the R’s will ever be back in power and they may be correct.

VegasRick on January 23, 2013 at 9:14 AM

Honey Boo Boo wants to sit on Harry’s lap during sessions.

Drill and Fill on January 23, 2013 at 9:14 AM

However, Reid has to quit blocking the minority party from offering amendments by using his privilege to “fill the tree,” too.

Like that is going to happen. Reid has no morals and is the chief slayer of destroying the republicans.

plutorocks on January 23, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Based on his experience with Nevada voting machines, Harry Reid likely assumes that no Democrat will ever lose a statewide election unless trailing by serious double-digit percentage. Hence the push.

Archivarix on January 23, 2013 at 9:16 AM

Remember a few years ago when the filibusterer was a necessary and vital portion of the legislative process, back when the Republicans were in the majority of the legislature?

Sgt Steve on January 23, 2013 at 9:16 AM

I remember the days when even considering this was tantamount to treason and worthy of a criminal trial. Back in the mid-2000′s I believe, though my memory is failing.

Bishop on January 23, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Harry Reid = Jerry Lawler

Mitch McConnell = Andy Kaufman

fogw on January 23, 2013 at 9:19 AM

This is a big deal especially if the Dem’s want to see legislation like gun control pass in the senate and watch Boehner & Co. twist in the wind -under full media assault- in the house.

RedState’s Erick Erickson wrote a little bit about the subject a few days ago.

Earlg on January 23, 2013 at 9:20 AM

The Democrat controlled Senate is the epicenter of our countries most pressing challenges. With the President, it is also mostly to blame for the continued suffering of the American people.

By our Constitution, the primary function our Senate serves is fiscal. Yet for four years they have not passed a budget.

What have they been doing?

In the midst of historic financial and unemployment problems, that we have not been able to effectively make a sustained case against the Democrat controlled Senate and their significant contribution to our problems is the height of ineptitude.

They are no only lazy, self-serving and indulgent, but are also destructive partisan who have sacrificed our countryman’s well-being to advance their political shenanigans and wreak fiscal havoc on our country.

Mitch McConnell- pick up your phone. Captain Obvious is calling.

Marcus Traianus on January 23, 2013 at 9:24 AM

Plus, Reid isn’t the only one with nuclear options in his pocket. The Senate runs to a large degree on manners

Manners don’t matter much to the corrupt Harry Reid.

rbj on January 23, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I remember the days when even considering this was tantamount to treason and worthy of a criminal trial. Back in the mid-2000′s I believe, though my memory is failing.

Bishop on January 23, 2013 at 9:17 AM

I say let him do it. Things will go in the crapper the next couple of years and if there is any integrity or intelligence left in the electorate, things will change. And Reid will be the one who got rid of the filibuster.

cozmo on January 23, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Looks like the mask is slipping off the petty tyrants.

Galt2009 on January 23, 2013 at 9:09 AM

What mask and it’s not petty, it’s in-your-face.

Earlg on January 23, 2013 at 9:33 AM

What would keep Reid and the Dems from changing the rules back prior to the new session if Republicans were to gain a majority in the next election?

Democrats only believe in extraordinary powers when they are in charge.

I hope they come to a compromise on the rules. I agree that a filibuster should not be allowed on the motion to proceed and also should require them to hold the floor…but at the same time, the minority needs to be protected and allowed to offer amendments.

weaselyone on January 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

Reid says he’s prepared to go nuclear

Only way I want to see this sorry SOB go nuclear is if he strays into a testing site the next time they want to set a nuke off!

pilamaye on January 23, 2013 at 9:42 AM

…FOAD Harry!
…Mitch!…Just leave!…Get out Mitch…you are just their _itch!

KOOLAID2 on January 23, 2013 at 9:43 AM

I’ve gotten to the point where I never trust the motives of Democrats. Here’s Reid, who’s been protecting his caucus from the tough votes, all of a sudden wants to block the minority from the filibuster? I’ll never forgive Reid and the Democrats for filibustering Bush’s judicial nominees including Miguel Estrada. How they ever got away with filibustering Miguel Estrada and the Hispanic caucus not calling them on it, I’ll never know.

Obama stands a chance of putting 4 Supreme Court justices on the court and, without a filibuster he can nominate the most extreme judges and no one can do a thing about it. IT’s hard enough to get the Republicans to filibuster a judge anyway.

bflat879 on January 23, 2013 at 9:44 AM

Exercising the nuclear option would be an unprecedented power-grab. It would silence the voices of the minority. This is very dangerous. Looks like they’ve begun to go for a full scale destruction of the republican party.

tommy71 on January 23, 2013 at 9:48 AM

I’ve had enough of the “both parties” Rhetoric CRAP from Ed, and O’Reilly and all the other Faux-”Conservatives” who voted for Obama.

NO – the problem is NOT “both parties” in this case: It is SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY the DEMOCRATS!!

williamg on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Harry needs to worry about his paycheck and a budget.

Probably why he wants the distraction.

Speakup on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Folks, we really have to work on this stuff.
We allow the Left to define our terms for us.
All of a sudden, the efforts to kill the filibuster have been rebranded as “filibuster reform”…?????

We have to seize the agenda, seize the language, and refuse to accept their framing or their terms. They, much like Satan, understand that the path to victory involves 180 steps that are each a mere 1 degree change in direction.

We often get to step 40 or so before we even become aware….

Medbob on January 23, 2013 at 9:51 AM

Another wonderful demonstration of the unintended consequences of nominating Sharron Angle for Senate. Wasn’t she the most brilliant conservative evah in Nevada?

Steve Z on January 23, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Screw it . . . give them the whole bag and let them completely destroy the country. Short of a revolution, you can’t stop them so wait for the nation to collapse then sort through the rubble and begin rebuilding. If you’re waiting for the Republican minority to get tough, forget it, that will never happen.

rplat on January 23, 2013 at 9:57 AM

…The Repubs will have a long memory of the Reid Years in the Senate and they will be well within their rights to exact as much pain on a new Democratic minority as Harry Reid did during his tenure.

powerpickle on January 23, 2013 at 9:11 AM

Back in realityland, if Republicans gain the Senate the Democrats will demand the right to filibuster and Republicans will cave.

Fenris on January 23, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Reid has to

Ed, please provide evidence where, when, how, and why Reid “has to” do anything or has ever responded to logic…

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on January 23, 2013 at 10:03 AM

Harry Reid 2005:

A conversation between Thomas Jefferson and George Washington describes the United States Senate and our Founders Fathers vision of it.

Jefferson asked Washington what is the purpose of the Senate?

Washington responded with a question of his own, “Why did you pour that coffee into your saucer?” “To cool it,” Jefferson replied. To which Washington said; “Even so, we pour legislation into the senatorial saucer to cool it.”

And this is exactly what the filibuster does. It encourages moderation and consensus. It gives voice to the minority, so that cooler heads may prevail.

It also separates us from the House of Representatives – where the majority rules. And it is very much in keeping with the spirit of the government established by the Framers of our Constitution: Limited Government… Separation of Powers… Checks and Balances.

Mr. President, the filibuster is a critical tool in keeping the majority in check. This central fact has been acknowledged and even praised by Senators from both parties.
[...]
For 200 years, we’ve had the right to extended debate. It’s not some “procedural gimmick.” It’s within the vision of the Founding Fathers of our country. They established a government so that no one person – and no single party – could have total control.

Some in this Chamber want to throw out 217 years of Senate history in the quest for absolute power.

They want to do away with Mr. Smith coming to Washington. They want to do away with the filibuster. They think they are wiser than our Founding Fathers.

I doubt that’s true.

Democrats are drunk on power and the filibuster is more important now than ever.
America needs checks and balances…..America is a country where the minority is supposed to have rights…….and like Reid says…the filibuster was put forth by our founding fathers so that no party could have total control.

Executive privilege,signing statements,calls by democrats for OBama to make decisions for America without consulting the Senate and House,launching wars without Congressional approval,now they want to do away with the filibuster……
……………….whose the dictator now liberals???????

Baxter Greene on January 23, 2013 at 10:05 AM

I’ve had enough of the “both parties” Rhetoric CRAP from Ed, and O’Reilly and all the other Faux-”Conservatives” who voted for Obama.

NO – the problem is NOT “both parties” in this case: It is SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY the DEMOCRATS!!
williamg on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Haha!!

One day you’ll wake up. Remember this when you do.

Genuine on January 23, 2013 at 10:19 AM

There are other ramifications about what Reid wants to do by changing the filibuster rule. I posted the following on an earlier thread:

There is something worse on Reid’s agenda it seems. No one is talking about it. But I received an email from DeMint’s Senate Conservative Fund about the Filibuster Reform Proposal.
The desire to hide their legislation is also why a new filibuster reform proposal was announced yesterday that will:

1.Shorten the time a bill is debated down to just two days; and

2.Eliminate all but two Republican amendments per bill.

You see, the plan only guarantees two Republican amendments and those amendments can only be offered by the Republican Leader and the top Republican on the committee with jurisdiction of the bill. This protects senior lawmakers, but it means a freshman like Ted Cruz (R-TX) won’t be allowed to offer his ideas.

http://www.senateconservatives.com/site/post/1698/senators-love-to-hide

bluefox on January 1, 2013 at 2:25 PM

Let Reid have the blame for this. McConnell and Boehner are the same, spineless.

bluefox on January 23, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Plus, Reid isn’t the only one with nuclear options in his pocket. The Senate runs to a large degree on manners. The chamber routinely dispenses with lengthy bill readings on the basis of unanimous consent, mainly because most Senators wouldn’t pay attention to the readings in the first place. That allows for a huge increase in efficiency, especially when one considers the length of the bills, and the fact that they need to be read (or the reading waived) multiple times as part of the process of legislation. If Republicans …

Yeah, if Republicans had a spine and a pair. There is no evidence that would lead to such a conclusion, especially Mitch McConnell. They will cave on this, and then if they ever get the majority back, will change the rules back in a sense of fairness.

AZfederalist on January 23, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Another wonderful demonstration of the unintended consequences of nominating Sharron Angle for Senate. Wasn’t she the most brilliant conservative evah in Nevada?

Steve Z on January 23, 2013 at 9:54 AM

Do you really think anyone would have won against Reid, really?
Where would Obama or the Dems be without Reid? Do you really think that election was fair and above board, with so much at stake with Obama’s agenda at risk?

I don’t.

bluefox on January 23, 2013 at 10:23 AM

AZfederalist on January 23, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Exactly. Evidently Reid thinks Boehner will pass anything the Senate passes. I can understand why he thinks that, since it’s been Boehner/McConnell/Reid giving Obama whatever he wants. Totally corrupt Congress.

bluefox on January 23, 2013 at 10:27 AM

They don’t think the R’s will ever be back in power and they may be correct.

VegasRick on January 23, 2013 at 9:14 AM

And even if they are, they won’t do anything with it.

CurtZHP on January 23, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Here is their plan:

1. Filibuster “reform”

2. Ram an assault weapons ban through the Senate with a thin majority (including the usual RINOs) and even let the nervous red state senators take a pass

3. Take the House back in 2014

4. Make 2014-2016 a living hell, passing every single awful leftist dream bill after another unopposed (amnesty, union card check, cap and tax, stricter gun control, higher taxes, etc). Then Hillary coasts to victory in 2016 for more.

I know it’s “cool” to be a debbie downers and Boehner basher, but we have a very serious threat to our Republic here.

I remember what 2009-2010 was like. It was awful.

2015 could make 2009 look like a picnic.

thurman on January 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Whatever they try to jam through in a nuclear option in 2013 may end up leaving them subject to the same rules as the minority in 2015 — and Reid will have set a precedent for rule-changes that would allow Republicans in the majority to make those rules even worse.

But Reid, Dems, and everyone on the planet know that Republicans are INCAPABLE of ever playing hard ball.

Name ONE TIME when the Republicans pushed anything through? The Democrats smashed Obamacare through, they don’t put a budget through if they don’t want to, and they are about to play smash-mouth politics with 1. filibuster, 2. gun control, 3. carbon taxes, 4. LGBT indoctrination.

It is going to hurt. I’m not happy with “our side”.

WWCathodeRay on January 23, 2013 at 10:38 AM

I think we need to learn to work with Harry Reid more effectively. Part of that is to show him due respect and acknowledge all he has sacrificed for his senate position. I have it on good authority for example, that Harry Reid has not molested a single child in more than 20 years. I also understand that he has not sexually harassed any waitresses since the death of Ted Kennedy.

I think I will like this new era of cooperation and playing by the same rules….

deepdiver on January 23, 2013 at 10:48 AM

Sounds like the new year is off to a good start.

Maybe Harry should talk to Nancy about how that “I’m the Queen!” worked out for her and the Democratic House majority in Nov 2010.

GarandFan on January 23, 2013 at 11:08 AM

A coalition of liberal groups met at the headquarters of the National Education Association (NEA) shortly after Obama won reelection to set strategy for advancing his second-term agenda. One of the primary goals emerging from the meeting was enacting filibuster reform.

Time for another round of public employee union busting. The beatings will continue until morale improves.

blammm on January 23, 2013 at 11:14 AM

Both parties have had enough of parliamentary tactics, and both parties need to give.

Of course….it’s BOTH parties. Where the frig do you get this crap? I’m TIRED of giving…in fact, I’m worn out by it.

Remind me what you stand for a-hole….cuz I’m lost.

Tim_CA on January 23, 2013 at 11:29 AM

williamg on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Sorry but both parties are to blame. The pubs in the house did not have to vote for continuing resolutions that maintain the “stimulus” as part of the baseline budget. They are as much to blame for the 1 trillion plus deficits each year as the dims.

chemman on January 23, 2013 at 11:31 AM

I’ve had enough of the “both parties” Rhetoric CRAP from Ed, and O’Reilly and all the other Faux-”Conservatives” who voted for Obama.

williamg on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

+1

If I’d read this first…I could’ve saved a post.

Start anther site Ed. Call it Establishment Air. It’ll feel good to stop the lie.

Tim_CA on January 23, 2013 at 11:36 AM

thurman on January 23, 2013 at 10:33 AM

And it’s not just the Democrats who want to make it easier to pass liberal legislation; many Republicans do too. In fact, the new filibuster reform plan is backed by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) and will likely attract support from other establishment Republicans.

This is from the Senate Conservative link I posted above.

bluefox on January 23, 2013 at 11:47 AM

I’ve had enough of the “both parties” Rhetoric CRAP from Ed, and O’Reilly and all the other Faux-”Conservatives” who voted for Obama.

NO – the problem is NOT “both parties” in this case: It is SOLELY and EXCLUSIVELY the DEMOCRATS!!

williamg on January 23, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Yep! It’s not the Republicans that are proposing drastic measures.
Hey Ed! What if you were asked to stop referring to your faith when you write for Hot Air? What would you do?

Vince on January 23, 2013 at 11:53 AM

Hey Ed! What if you were asked to stop referring to your faith when you write for Hot Air? What would you do?

Vince on January 23, 2013 at 11:53 AM

I’m betting that depends on who did the asking.

If it was his Establishment “contacts” or his advertisers….something tells me he’d squish-out immediately….then say “Both sides need to stop bringing up God”.

Tim_CA on January 23, 2013 at 11:58 AM

I dare Reid to do it. If the only filibuster option left is a Jimmy Stewart-style marathon speech in the Senate floor, we should gladly accept that. Would the networks refuse to cover a principled speech by Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, or Ted Cruz? What better way for the conservative message to be relayed to the “low-information voters?” This could backfire big-time for Reid and Obama. I hope.

Colony14 on January 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Tim_CA on January 23, 2013 at 11:29 AM

The Republican Party is the only one that have been giving to Reid and the Dems.

However, the Republican Party doesn’t give anything to the Tea Party or the Conservatives. Too bad they don’t fight Reid & the Dems and fight FOR the American People.

We have seen their colors for a long time…corruption!!

bluefox on January 23, 2013 at 12:05 PM

I was suprised to see that there was no discussion of electing a new Senate Majority Leader. Dem Senators that work with Dingy every day have to know that he’s not playing with a full deck. I suspect he took a few too many punches to the head when he was a boxer.

slickwillie2001 on January 23, 2013 at 12:29 PM

I suspect he took a few too many punches to the head when he was a boxer.

slickwillie2001 on January 23, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Sure would explain the dementia.

Tim_CA on January 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Isn’t “nuclear option” reserved and used ONLY FOR TAX/FINANCIAL bills? Why is McConnell even discussing any of this in stead of telling Reid to pound it.

riddick on January 23, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Both parties have had enough of parliamentary tactics, and both parties need to give.

Not a chance. President Bush was re-elected with a majority of the popular vote, and the Republicans won control of both the House and Senate, in 2004. They got nothing done in 2005 – 2006 because of the Democrats unprecedented use of the filibuster.

So, no, no changes of any sort until the next time the Republicans control the chamber. The Democrats MUST be made to live with what they forced on us.

Greg Q on January 23, 2013 at 1:14 PM

The chamber routinely dispenses with lengthy bill readings on the basis of unanimous consent, mainly because most Senators wouldn’t pay attention to the readings in the first place. That allows for a huge increase in efficiency, especially when one considers the length of the bills, and the fact that they need to be read (or the reading waived) multiple times as part of the process of legislation. If Republicans withhold unanimous consent on all business, they can bring the Senate to a crawl

Just think where we’d be today if all bills including Obamacare had to actually be read during the process so that EVERYONE would understand what they were voting for.

If wishes were horses……

Tenwheeler on January 23, 2013 at 1:52 PM

they can bring the Senate to a crawl —

Oh, and speaking of bringing the Senate to a crawl….

Where’s that 2010 budget?

Tenwheeler on January 23, 2013 at 1:53 PM

May he end up in a creche, soon.

Such a charlatanic thug the senate hasn’t seen in a while.

Schadenfreude on January 23, 2013 at 2:03 PM

What would keep Reid and the Dems from changing the rules back prior to the new session if Republicans were to gain a majority in the next election?

weaselyone on January 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

———————–

Exactly! If the Republicans do manage to retake control of the Senate, the very last action of Harry Reid right before he finally adjourns the Senate, he will use his 51 majority to change the Senate Rules completely the other way around so that the Republicans won’t ever be able to break a Dem filibuster.

And Mitch McConnell will buy it!

Mahdi on January 23, 2013 at 4:57 PM