Dems Still Moving Forward With Filibuster Reform

I wonder how much Republican cooperation they're going to get:

WASHINGTON -- Leaders of the effort to reform the filibuster in the Senate are pushing forward despite the election outcome, working to gather support within the Democratic caucus while reaching out to Republicans. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) said that he and a core group of members will canvass their colleagues throughout November and December.

"We'll start the informal discussion in our caucus. Are you for reform? What kind of reform?" Udall told HuffPost.

On the first day of the 112th Congress, Udall said, he will rise and make a motion to establish rules for the session, making the argument that the chamber is entitled by the Constitution to set its own rules. Vice President Joe Biden is then expected to rule -- as vice presidents have done in the past -- that the motion is in order. Senate Republicans will challenge the ruling and Democrats will move to table the objection. Only 50 votes will be needed to table the objection. If Democrats succeed, a debate would then begin over how to reform the rules.

Udall said he and newer Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) have been gradually winning support for their effort to reform the rules.

Abolishing the filibuster is far from the only reform under consideration. "You could clear out a lot of the underbrush," said Norm Ornstein, a constitutional scholar who advised Udall on the effort. Currently, after the majority files a cloture motion to break a filibuster, 30 hours of "debate" must happen before the vote. That vote is followed by another 30 hours until the final vote is held, which means a single effort can take a full week of floor time.

That time could be reduced or eliminated -- or split in two 15-hour sections divided among the parties, Ornstein said. Or separate rules could exist for executive branch nominees, alleviating the crisis of understaffing that has beset both administrations since at least 2007.


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