By Ben Geman - 12/28/12 05:16 PM EST
A bipartisan group is offering Senate leaders a political compromise on filibuster reform as Democrats push to change rules that frequently require 60 votes to pass bills.
The group met Friday morning in the office of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, and plans to present its idea to the separate caucuses later in the day.
“We have given the leaders our private recommendations,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) told reporters in the Capitol after the meeting. “We have given them some suggestions, and we will describe that more after we have a chance to have a talk with ... our caucuses.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said the filibuster would be discussed at Democrats’ caucus lunch on Friday.
Lawmakers involved in the ad-hoc group, in addition to Kyl, Alexander and Cardin, include Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and, according to The Huffington Post, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
Democrats led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) are pushing, over GOP opposition, to curb what have become frequent Republican filibusters, with changes such as requiring lawmakers to actually stay on the floor and talk in order to obstruct bills.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democrats have also proposed preventing filibusters on procedural motions that enable formal debate of bills.
The White House has signaled support for curbing use of the filibuster, but Republicans strongly oppose Reid’s plans to change the rules early in 2013 through a byzantine parliamentary tactic dubbed the "nuclear option" that only requires 51 votes.
Kyl told the reporters that the group is seeking a “middle ground,” and that many senators on both sides of the aisle “recognize that it would be a very bad precedent to invoke the nuclear option to, in effect, break the rules to change the rules.”
“I also think from the Democrats' standpoint, they probably don’t have a sufficient number of votes to do it at this point, so both sides have a reason to sit down and talk,” Kyl said.
Alexander said that “most senators would like to see the Senate function better,” but he did not provide details of the compromise plan.
“Basically what we want to do is for bills to come to the floor and once they get to have the opportunity to amend them, and we will see where we go,” he said.