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The Senate Just Changed Its Filibuster Rules The Senate Just Changed Its Filibuster Rules

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The Senate Just Changed Its Filibuster Rules

It's actually happened.


(JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The Senate is glowing. Senate Majority Harry Reid has gone nuclear, and the Senate is (very modestly) changed.

After the Senate again failed to move Patricia Millett's nomination to the D.C. Circuit Court, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged the ruling of the chair that 60 votes would be needed.


The Senate then voted, by simple majority, to disapprove of the ruling of the chair. Very few Democrats—Sens. Pryor, Levin, and Manchin—joined Republicans to vote to preserve the 60-vote rule. Reid had 52 Democratic votes (including his own) to support the change.

As of today, executive and judicial nominees--excluding Supreme Court nominations--can be approved by a simple, 51-vote majority.

Update (2:05 p.m.): In a White House statement, President Obama said he supported the actions by the majority of senators to change the filibuster rules. Though he said Democrats were partially to blame for the way the Senate has gotten over years, he said things have to change.


"All too often," the president said, "we have seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse arcane procedures."

"The vote today I think is an indication that a majority of senators believe as I believe that enough is enough."

Gridlock has "harmed our economy and it's been harmful to our democracy," Obama said. "I realize that neither is party is blameless for these actions. … But today's level of obstruction just isn't normal."

"Public service is not a game," Obama said. "It is a privilege," and Americans "deserve better."


Update (1:45 p.m.): At a press conference, Senate Democratic leadership wasn't ready to break out the champagne. Harry Reid said that "this is not a time for celebration." Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also echoed Mitch McConnell, saying that "today is a sad day."

Asked if he's concerned about McConnell fully doing away with the filibuster, Reid said "Let him do it...Let him do whatever he wants...This is the way it had to be. The Senate has changed."

Update (1:23 p.m.): Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Arkansas, was one of three Democrats to vote against the rule change. Why did he join Republicans? In a statement, he said that "Today's use of the 'nuclear option' could permanently damage the Senate."

Sen. Carl Levin, who also voted with Republicans against the change, said that "when the precedent is set that a majority can change the rules at will on judges, that precedent will be used to change the rules on consideration of legislation, and down the road, the hard-won protections and benefits for our people's health and welfare will be less secure."

Update (1:18 p.m.) Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, took to the Senate floor to congratulate Harry Reid on the filibuster change. "I've waited 18 years for this moment," he said.

Update (1:11 p.m.): Mitch McConnell isn't ready to talk about revenge. This, McConnell said, is "a day to be sad."

Update (1:05 p.m.): Senate Democratic leadership will soon hold a press conference on the rule change. We'll have updates on that as they come in.

Update (12:57 p.m.): The Senate is now voting on cloture for Patricia Millett, which now only needs a simple majority. She's likely to get it. However, at that point there is a 30 hour wait period, and it's unlikely that Republicans will yield back time.

Just in case you suddenly thought things would start moving quickly, just a reminder: it's still the United States Senate.

Update (12:52 p.m.): Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who has long pushed for Senate filibuster reform is pleased. "Finally, we have reform," he tweeted. Other senators, not so impressed. "This isn't just a shame for the Senate. It's scary and dictatorial for our country," tweeted Sen. David Vitter.

Update (12:40 p.m.): Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has found deals in the past to avoid this very outcome. He said he has been engaged in talks for two weeks.

"I spent an hour in Harry Reid's office" on Wedneday, McCain said. "I've reached [out] until my arm aches."

When asked if he's still meeting, he said, "It's too late."

"It puts a chill on the entire United States Senate," McCain added.

Other Republican Senators likewise said they didn't see a way out. "They're going to make the bed they're going to sleep in," Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C. said of Democrats. (By Elahe Izadi)

Update (12:34 p.m.): The final vote was 52-48 in favor of changing the rule. Sen. Pat Leahy, from the chair, said that the ruling of the chair is that the "threshold for cloture on nominations, not including the Supreme Court, is now a majority."

Mitch McConnell has asked for the yeas and nays. But, barring an unlikely reversal, the Senate has officially voted to significantly alter its filibuster rules.

Update (12:30 p.m.): Not all Democrats are on the nuclear train. Sens. Pryor, Manchin and Levin have voted with Republicans against the rule change.

Update (12:27 p.m.): The Senate is still voting, but it's looking like Democrats should have enough votes. Sen. Barbara Boxer's no vote, followed by Harry Reid's at 12:27 may seal the deal.

Update (12:17 p.m.): Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson tweets: "(This is it, folks.)"

Michael Catalini, Elahe Izadi, Patrick Reis and Alex Seitz-Wald contributed to this article.

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