Sen. Durbin: Democrats lack votes to pass talking filibuster reform

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a leading liberal, said Wednesday Democrats do not have enough votes to implement the talking-filibuster reform.

He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has suggested a package of more modest reforms to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). They include proposals to eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to new business and to speed the process for sending legislation to conference negotiations with the House.

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Reid is waiting for a response from McConnell. If McConnell declines to strike a deal, Reid has enough votes to implement reforms through the nuclear option, a controversial tactic whereby Senate rules can be changed by a simple majority vote.

But Reid does not have 51 votes to make the rules change that liberals say is most important: requiring senators who want to filibuster legislation to actively hold the floor and debate. If senators seeking to block business fail to continuously hold the floor, the matter could advance by a majority vote.

“I would say the talking filibuster at this point does not have 51 votes,” said Durbin.

Durbin said Reid’s package of reforms would prohibit filibusters on motions to proceed, address rules for sending bills to conference, and reduce the floor time required for nominees once the Senate has voted to end debate on them.

If McConnell agrees to the package, it could be passed as a standing order, requiring 60 votes, or a permanent rules change, requiring 67 votes.