Dems Vote To Change The Filibuster

Busting The Filibuster

by digby

Here's some really good news. If they pull this off it could change the dynamic next year and potentially alter the trajectory of the next two years:

All Democratic senators returning next year have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urging him to consider action to change long-sacrosanct filibuster rules.

The letter, delivered this week, expresses general frustration with what Democrats consider unprecedented obstruction and asks Reid to take steps to end those abuses. While it does not urge a specific solution, Democrats said it demonstrates increased backing in the majority for a proposal, championed by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and others, weaken the minority’s ability to tie the Senate calendar into parliamentary knots.

Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it. That is a change from current rules, which require the majority leader to file a cloture motion to overcome an anonymous objection to a motion to proceed, and then wait 30 hours for a vote on it.

“There need to be changes to the rules to allow filibusters to be conducted by people who actually want to block legislation instead of people being able to quietly say ‘I object’ and go home,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.

This year, McCaskill lined up backing from more than two-thirds of senators for elimination of secret holds, which allow a senator to block action on a bill or nomination anonymously. She said that Democrats will also push plans to force senators who place holds to do it publicly.

After weeks of Democratic Caucus discussions during which newer members pushed various plans to limit filibusters, reformers are increasingly confident that they can defy predictions by Republicans and many pundits that rules changes will not happen in the near term. A Democratic leadership aide said that Democrats expect to “do something on timing” next month, specifically by seeking to prevent 30-hour waiting periods on motions to proceed.

The fact that every returning Democrat signed the letter circulated by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Mark Warner, D-Va., urging changes underscores growing determination on the part of the Senate’s majority to raise the bars for filibusters.

They still have to deal with the new Tea House and it can't prevent bad deals between the White House and the Republicans, but at least the Senate Republicans won't be able run their usual shenanigans as easily. It's a big plus.

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