Reid has embraced a carrot-and-stick strategy on the filibuster reform. The “carrot” is the deal he’s offering McConnell. Its major provisions include eliminating filibusters on the motion to proceed and speeding the process of breaking filibusters against most presidential nominations.
The Senate’s reformers are crestfallen. This is not, in their view, filibuster reform. Forget breaking the Senate’s 60-vote requirement. This doesn’t even make senators stand up and talk, as would be the case under the proposal Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) were pushing.
And this would be great, but it’s unlikely:
The last, best hope for filibuster reformers is that McConnell won’t take Reid’s deal. In that case, Reid is preparing a backup plan that includes both of the items in the Reid-McConnell talks and one more: An innovative reform that changes who bears the burden for cloture votes.
Right now, the majority needs to supply the 60 votes to break a filibuster. The minority only needs one vote on the floor. Under Reid’s backup plan, the burden would be reversed: The minority would have to supply the 41 votes required to keep a filibuster going, while the majority wouldn’t have to do much of anything. That means that if the minority only had 38 votes present in the room, the filibuster would end. It also means the minority could be forced to muster all their people to vote at times of the majority leader’s choosing: say, 3 a.m. on a Saturday. It would make filibustering a much more unpleasant experience.
Whatever you want to say about McConnell, he’s a smooth operator and he doesn’t generally cut off his nose to spite his face, so counting on him to take the worse deal is a bad bet. The Senate is full of a bunch of elderly rule fetishizing prima donnas, and none of them really want to give up their power to throw sand in the gears, so I expect a quiet sigh of relief on the part of Democrats like DiFi, Baucus, Levin and others when McConnell takes Reid’s deal.