Reid to lay out plans for filibuster reform

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will present colleagues with options for reforming the Senate’s filibuster rules in a Democratic Caucus meeting Tuesday.

Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are close to reaching a deal to speed the pace of work in the Senate, but some of the details remain unresolved.

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The agreement between Reid and McConnell is not expected to include the talking filibuster, which would require senators who want to block action on legislation to actually hold the floor and debate for hours on end.

In recent days, Reid has begun to focus on a proposal to tweak the filibuster rule by requiring the minority party to muster 41 votes to stall a bill or nominee. Under current rules, the responsibility is on the majority to round up 60 votes to end a filibuster.

Reid will insist on reducing delays to motions to begin debate on new business and motions to send legislation to conference talks with the House, according to Senate sources.

Democratic proponents of filibuster reform emphasize that Reid does not yet have a final package. They are holding out hope that Reid can be persuaded to include the talking filibuster after a caucus debate. 

A Senate Republican source said Reid and McConnell would present the rough outlines of a potential deal to their caucuses this week before finalizing it.

Reid will not trigger the so-called nuclear option on Tuesday, as some Republicans have feared. Under the nuclear option, Reid could change the Senate’s rules with a simple majority vote.

Proponents of the tactic, such as Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), call it the “constitutional option,” arguing that the Constitution allows the Senate to set its own rules at the start of a new Congress.

Reid has extended the first “legislative day” of the 113th Congress for more than two weeks to give him the opportunity to trigger the nuclear option if he fails to reach a deal with McConnell.

A Democratic aide said Reid would have at least 51 votes to implement whatever reforms have consensus support within the caucus.

But Reid does not want to start the new Congress on a sourly partisan note and would prefer to negotiate a bipartisan alternative.

Republicans have asked that any reform guarantee the minority party the chance to offer amendments in exchange for ending filibusters of motions to proceed to new business.

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) said Reid would not trigger the nuclear option Tuesday. He hopes a compromise will emerge by week’s end.

“We’re close. We’re very close. It really comes down to one or two relatively minor angles that we ought to resolve,” he said.

Several senior and centrist Democrats have balked at reforming the filibuster rule to require senators to actively hold the floor. They include Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Carl Levin (Mich.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.).

“I am looking forward to the meeting on Tuesday because my understanding is that a plan is going to be put forward,” said Feinstein. “I would hope that we wouldn’t have to use the nuclear option. I would hope that the two parties can agree, and there’s some indication that that might happen.”