Senate Dem freshmen want party to back 'talking filibuster'

Senate Dem freshmen want party to back 'talking filibuster'

Most of the new class of Senate Democratic freshmen say filibuster reform should require senators to actually hold the floor and debate if they want to block legislation.

Seven new Democrats voiced support Thursday for instituting the so-called talking filibuster rule as the core component of reform.

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Of the nine newest senators to join the Senate Democratic Conference, only Sens. Mazie HironoMazie HironoSenate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Senate Dem: Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito like 'horsemen of the apocalypse' Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Hawaii) and Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampSenate Democrats: ObamaCare repeal fight isn't over yet Dem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal Senate Dem undecided on 2018 reelection run MORE (D-N.D.) declined to explicitly support the talking filibuster.

Overhauling the rules has boiled down to an intergenerational debate within the Senate Democratic caucus.

Old bulls such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinTrump's crush on foreign autocrats threatens democracy at home OPINION: Congress must press forward with its Russia investigation Democrats and Republicans share blame in rewriting the role of the Senate MORE (D-Mich.) favor more modest reform and have recruited Republicans to press for a negotiated solution.

Junior Democrats, including Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallOvernight Finance: GOP divided over welfare cuts in budget | Lawmaker loses M on pharma stock he pitched | Yellen says another financial crisis unlikely in our lifetimes Overnight Regulation: EPA moves to repeal Obama water rule | Labor chief to review overtime rule | Record fine for Google EPA head faces skeptical senators on budget cuts MORE (N.M.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyWATCH LIVE: Senate Dems hold ‘People’s Filibuster’ against ObamaCare repeal Merkley: Trump 'absolutely' tried to intimidate Comey Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (Ore.), say unless lawmakers are required to sustain live floor debates, the chamber will remain gridlocked most of the time. They favor using the nuclear option, which they call the “constitutional option,” to effect this change through a simple majority vote. But they need 51 of the 55 members of the Senate Democratic Conference to back them.

“The heart of the matter is the talking filibuster,” Udall said.

Levin gained momentum late last month when he and seven colleagues introduced a bipartisan proposal to reform Senate procedures.

His plan would allow a senator to require 60 votes to set up final passage of a bill by raising an objection. It would, however, make it easier for the majority leader to take up new business by restricting filibusters on motions to proceed.

It would also make it easier for the leader to bring legislation to conference negotiations with the House and move lower-level executive- and judicial-branch nominees.

Levin has enlisted the support of Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan Changing America: America’s growing education divide Congress needs to support the COINS Act MORE (R-Ariz.), as well as Sens. 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 CardinSenators urge Trump to do right thing with arms sales to Taiwan Dem senators urged Obama to take action on Russia before election Overnight Cybersecurity: Trump tweetstorm on Russia probe | White House reportedly pushing to weaken sanctions bill | Podesta to testify before House Intel MORE (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSenate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Senate Dems plan floor protest ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dem senator: Don't bet against McConnell on ObamaCare repeal MORE (D-N.Y.), Lamar AlexanderLamar AlexanderThe Hill's Whip List: GOP undecided, 'no' votes pile up on ObamaCare repeal bill Trump administration pays June ObamaCare subsidies to insurers Republicans and the lost promise of local control in education MORE (R-Tenn.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John BarrassoJohn BarrassoSenate confirms NRC chairwoman to new term A bipartisan consensus against 'big pharma' is growing in Congress McConnell allies confident in healthcare win MORE (R-Wyo.).

Udall and Merkley on Thursday introduced their own resolution to reform the Senate. The biggest difference is that their plan would force senators who filibuster to actually speak on the floor and allow the majority leader to call for a simple majority vote on the pending business once the debate stops.

Their proposal would also eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed, reduce debate time on executive- and judicial-branch nominees — except for Supreme Court nominees — and bar filibusters on motions to go to conference.

They received reinforcements Thursday when nine new Democratic senators took the oath of office. Most of them agree with Udall and Merkley that reform should require lawmakers seeking to block action to argue for their reasons in front of C-SPAN cameras.

“Preserving the rights of the minority is important, but I think it’s too easy, if you don’t actually have to do a 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'-style filibuster, it’s too easy to be abused,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity The Memo: Five takeaways from Jeff Sessions’s testimony Overnight Cybersecurity: Sessions denies Russia collusion | First agency gets 'A' grade on IT | Feds out North Korean botnet | Unusual security update for Windows XP MORE (D) after taking the oath of office to represent New Mexico. “I think the filibuster should be preserved but it should be a talking filibuster where you actually have to go to the floor and preserve the floor.”

“I feel like talking filibuster is what enables your colleagues and the American public to know whether you’re interposing some reason for delay or you’re just interested in delay for delay’s sake,” said Sen. Tim KaineTim KaineVa. Republicans to choose challenger to Tim Kaine through primary Live coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan Trump supporter who lost tight Va. governor primary weighs Senate run MORE (D-Va.), before participating in a swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Biden.

Senate Democrats have filed over 380 motions to end filibusters since capturing the majority in 2006, although Republicans argue many of these were filed before giving them a chance to discuss possible compromises to move forward. 

The Levin-McCain proposal urges party leaders and senior senators managing floor business not to honor objections from lawmakers who are not present on the floor — but junior Democrats who favor reform say this does not go far enough.

“The McCain-Levin proposal does nothing to take on the secret silent filibuster that is haunting this body,” Merkley told reporters Thursday.

He argues that Democratic and Republican leaders tried to establish a gentlemen’s agreement to reduce obstruction at the start of the 112th Congress in early 2011 but it did not work. He says a rule change is necessary.

Merkley and Udall have talked to many of the Senate Democratic freshmen since the election to shore up their support.

“The talking filibuster is still very much on the table. Ask the new ones coming in what they feel about it,” Udall said.

“I’ve been speaking with them. I am very supportive of reform and feel like this talking filibuster is exactly what the rule was designed to do historically,” said Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinMajor progressive group rolls out first incumbent House endorsement Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief MORE (D-Wis.), who replaced Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyLawmakers sport LSU gear at baseball game in honor of Scalise Senate votes to continue arming Saudis As Yemenis suffer the consequences Overnight Defense: Mattis defends Trump budget | Senate rejects effort to block Saudi deal | Boeing to cut 50 executive jobs MORE (D-Ind.), who did not sign onto a petition to “fix the broken Senate” before Election Day, also voiced support for the talking filibuster.

“One of the things I’ve always said back home in Indiana — if you want to get credit for something, you ought to earn it,” he said. “If you want to get up and declare filibuster, you ought to have to do it.

“You have to earn it,” he said.

Sen. Angus KingAngus KingElection hacking fears turn heat on Homeland Security Zinke hits Dems for delaying Interior nominees Angus King: I’m sure Flynn will 'appear before the committee one way or another' MORE (Maine), an Independent who will caucus with the Democrats, said it would be “preferable” for filibuster reform to include the talking filibuster. He said it is also important to allow the minority party the ability to offer and vote on amendments, even if they might put members of the majority in political discomfort.

“At the very least, if you’re going to try to filibuster a bill, you should stand on the floor and show to the American public what you’re for and what you’re against,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphySaudis say Qatar demands are non-negotiable Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote Dems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity MORE (D-Conn.), who has taken former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) seat. “I want the strongest filibuster reform. I’m going to support the efforts of Sens. Merkley and Udall.”

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren goes on tweetstorm over GOP ObamaCare repeal bill Warren: Dems should campaign on single-payer healthcare plan Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (D-Mass.) said she, too, wants filibuster reform to require senators to hold the floor to block bills.

Hirono and Heitkamp were the least explicit. 

“She broadly supports the goal of filibuster reform but is reviewing the proposals on the table,” said a spokesman for Hirono.

Heitkamp said, “I’m not sure yet. I haven’t had a chance to get a complete brief.”