Senate leaders to continue negotiations on rule changes

The Senate leaders have been working on a deal to avoid a simple-majority or “nuclear vote” to change the rules. Both leaders will be discussing the bipartisan negotiations at caucus luncheons Tuesday afternoon.

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Ahead of Senate caucus meetings, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) pointed out that Democrats have enough votes to change the rules even if Republicans don’t agree.

“I’m convinced that we are going to reform these rules,” Udall said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “If [Republicans] will not come with us, we are in a position where we are in the majority and we have to make this work for the American people.”

On the first day of the 113th Congress, Udall introduced Sen. Res. 4, which would change Senate rules on the filibuster in order to expedite the legislative process.

“Senate Resolution 4 is simple,” Udall said. “It is limited and it is fair. Again, we are not ending the filibuster, we preserve the rights of the minority.”

One rule change Udall and other Democrats, such as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), have been pushing for would end the silent filibuster by requiring the lawmaker filibustering to be present on the floor and debating.

“Under the abuse of the current rules, a filibuster can be enacted with a simple phone call from a senator,” Udall said.

Udall said the 112th Congress was the “least productive Congress in history,” passing only 2.8 percent of all bills introduced.

Republicans have warned Democrats that they should think about how they would feel about the rule changes if they were in the minority, but Udall said his view would not change.

“Let me be clear, if Leader McConnell had become the new majority leader in the Senate, I would have asked him to work with me on these same reforms,” Udall said. “They will not trample to rights of the minority party … [and] I am willing to support these changes whether I’m in the majority or minority party.”