Leading proponent of filibuster reform claims he has 51 votes

Sen. Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Tech: FCC chief says media isn't 'the enemy of the people' | Fallout from Comey's testimony | Google apologizes for ads near extremist content | US preps electronics ban on some flights FCC head: The media is not the 'enemy of the people' Overnight Tech: Dems grill FCC chair | Senators move to crack down on robocalls | House bill would roll back internet privacy rule MORE (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of filibuster reform, said Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThis obscure Senate rule could let VP Mike Pence fully repeal ObamaCare once and for all Sharron Angle to challenge GOP rep in Nevada Fox's Watters asks Trump whom he would fire: Baldwin, Schumer or Zucker MORE (Nev.) has the 51 votes he needs to change Senate rules with the "nuclear option."

The maneuver would be controversial, however, and could heighten partisan tensions at the start of the 113th Congress in January. Republicans say using 51 votes to change Senate procedures — and to prevent the minority party in the Senate from blocking a majority-vote — amounts to breaking the rules to change them.

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“The crucial thing for all of you to know is Harry Reid’s got 51 votes to do the Constitutional option at the beginning of the Congress,” Udall said. “My sense is if he can’t get agreement on the other side, then he’s going to go forward.”

Changing rules with a simple majority vote is considered so controversial it is sometimes called the nuclear option. Democrats backing the maneuver have described it as the “Constitutional option.”

A bipartisan group of senators including Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFreedom Caucus, Trump reach 'agreement in principle' on ObamaCare repeal bill Gorsuch hearings: A referendum on Originalism and corporate power We must act now and pass the American Health Care Act MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderOvernight Regulation: Trump's Labor nominee hints at updating overtime rule Trump's Labor pick signals support for overtime pay hike Live coverage: Day three of Supreme Court nominee hearing MORE (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican member of the Rules panel, are meanwhile working on a bipartisan compromise to change filibuster rules under regular order, which requires 67 votes.

Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), John McCainJohn McCainMcCain calls North Korean leader a 'crazy, fat kid' McCain: Congress doesn't have 'credibility' to handle Russia probes Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGorsuch rewrites playbook for confirmation hearings Dem senator: House Intel chairman may have revealed classified info The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-S.C.), Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.), Ben CardinBen CardinRand Paul roils the Senate with NATO blockade Lawmakers want Trump commitment to help Iraq post-ISIS Trump's budget revealed his priorities. Now the fun begins. MORE (D-Md.) and Carl LevinCarl LevinTed Cruz wants to destroy the Senate as we know it A package proposal for repatriation Silencing of Warren another example of hyperpartisan Senate MORE (D-Mich.) are part of the ad-hoc group working on a compromise to avoid the nuclear option.

The bipartisan group of senators floated their plan Friday afternoon.

It stops far short of the broader weakening of the filibuster that Udall, Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDem senator accuses Trump of 'dangerous tilt towards authoritarianism' Overnight Regulation: Dems punch back in fight over CEO pay rule Bernie Sanders, Menendez 'troubled' by delay of CEO pay rule MORE (D-Ore.) and other Democrats are pushing to adopt with the “nuclear” or “constitutional” option.

Under the bipartisan plan, the Senate would adopt an order at the opening of the next Congress that would give the majority leader more tools to overcome procedural barriers to debating bills.

“The key, number one part is to give the majority leader options to overcome the filibuster and the threat of a filibuster on a motion to proceed. That has been the greatest problem around here in terms of getting to the business of working on bills,” Levin said at a press conference.

The plan, according to a summary, would limit and substantially expedite debate on a “motion to proceed” to legislation, and seek to ensure that both parties have the option to offer amendments to bills.

Elsewhere, the plan would consolidate motions to go to conference on bills with the House, and expedite action on some judicial nominations, among other features.

It also calls on the respective Democratic and Republican leaders to less formally press their caucuses not to hold up bills.

For instance, it states that leaders and bill managers should not honor requests to object or threats to filibuster on another senator’s behalf “unless that senator comes to the floor and exercises his or her rights himself or herself,” according to the summary.

Udall said the plan falls short of requiring actual, talking filibusters. “I don’t think it stops the gridlock,” he said.

But McCain, at the press conference with Levin, defended the proposal and suggested the Democrats pressing for more sweeping changes to the filibuster lack the perspective of veteran lawmakers.

“Most of them, in all due candor and honesty, have never been in the minority,” McCain said.

“The proposal that was circulated in there, which I assume you could all get a copy of, the basic thing is that you would still be able to continue down the path of filibusters that are hidden,” Udall said of the ad-hoc group’s work.

Udall said the ad-hoc group’s framework would rely on a gentleman’s agreement that would still allow senators to filibuster legislation without actually holding the floor and debating it.

“You wouldn’t have responsibility, you wouldn’t have people stepping forward,” he said. “It’s more in a gentlemen’s agreement, which we’ve already done that, it failed.”

Ben Geman contributed.

Updated at 4:01 p.m.