A frustrated Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday said he will likely push for changes to filibuster rules if the Democrats retain control of the upper chamber next year.
“I’ll just bet you … if we maintain a majority, and I feel quite confident that we can do that, and the president is reelected, there is going to be some changes,” Reid said on the Senate floor. “We can no longer go through this, every bill, filibusters [even] on bills that they agree with. It’s just a waste of time to prevent us from getting things done.”
A few Democrats, including Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), have previously defected on measures that would change filibuster rules. Both senators are up for reelection in 2014.
Reid was frustrated over Thursday’s procedural vote on the farm bill — specifically, a vote to end debate on the motion to proceed to that bill. The Nevada Democrat implied that Republicans had not consented to proceeding with the legislation, which forced him to formally end debate through a vote.
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“We’re going to have a cloture vote on the ability for us to proceed to the bill, the ability of us to start legislating,” Reid said. “I don’t need to give a lecture … about how vexatious this is that we have to do this every time.”
Reid’s complaint was borne out as the Senate approved the motion to end debate, 90-8.
The Senate has been plagued with many of these procedural votes in the 112th Congress, which has slowed Senate work on several key measures.
Republicans noted that Reid specified he would press for changes to filibuster rules only if the Democrats hold the Senate, and said that seemed to imply that Democrats would favor current filibuster rules if they were in the minority. A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added that those who oppose Democratic plans for the economy are grateful for the ability to disrupt these plans.
“Americans saw what happened when Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate: ObamaCare, stimulus and massive new job-killing regulations were rushed through Congress,” said McConnell aide Don Stewart.
Stewart on Thursday tweeted prior statements Reid has made about the filibuster, including one in 2006 when he praised it for serving “the long-term interest of the Senate.”
Democrats stress they are not looking to eliminate the filibuster, but instead make senators vote on actual bills than blocking it through procedural motions.
Reid spoke in a morning session over which Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) presided, and noted Udall’s proposal last year to amend the filibuster rules. Udall is a leading proponent of reform, and last year proposed that senators should have to remain on the floor in order to maintain a filibuster. He also proposed an end to secret holds on nominations.
The Obama administration has indicated support for altering aspects of the filibuster.
Vice President Biden suggested in 2010 he was in favor of filibuster reform. At the time, he said, “From my perspective, having served here, having been elected seven times, I’ve never seen a time when [the filibuster has] become standard operating procedure.”
— This story was updated at 3:05 p.m. to add Republican reaction.