Commentary Magazine


Filibuster Reform Vote May Last Weeks

Senate Democrats are expected to propose a change to the filibuster rules tomorrow, but thanks to a loophole in the congressional rules, there’s a chance that it could actually take two weeks until the reform is actually voted on.

On the first day of a new Senate, lawmakers are able to change the rules with only 51 votes, as opposed to the usual threshold of 60. But Democratic leaders are reportedly still scrambling to come to a consensus on a single reform plan, and to get a simple majority on board.

To buy some more time, Democrats are reportedly considering a loophole that would allow them to delay the end of the first day of the Senate for up to two weeks:

Traditionally, rules changes are done on the first day of the session. In order to give negotiators more time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is going to have to recess — but not adjourn — at the end of the day on Wednesday. By recessing, it technically remains the same business day until Reid adjourns the Senate — likely when they come back on January 24 after the vote on the rules changes.

The GOP has already begun attacking Senate Democrats for mounting a “power grab,” and I imagine contorting congressional rules in order to push through an unpopular proposal would only play into this talking point. According to Greg Sargent, some Democrats are eager to get an extra two weeks to make the filibuster reform case to the public, but I think they may be overestimating the public support for their proposals. Considering the widespread anger over Democratic political maneuvering on health-care reform, dragging out this process seems unwise.