The Senate Just Changed Its Filibuster Rules

It’s actually happened.

National Journal
Matt Berman
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Matt Berman
Nov. 21, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

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.)”

Alex Seitz-Wald, Patrick Reis, Elahe Izad and Michael Catalin contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
ANOTHER GOP MODERATE TO HER SIDE
John Warner to Endorse Clinton
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will score another high-powered Republican endorsement on Wednesday, according to a campaign aide: retired senator John Warner of Virginia, a popular GOP maverick with renowned military credentials."

Source:
AUTHORITY OF EPA IN QUESTION
Appeals Court Hears Clean Power Plant Case
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Tuesday "heard several hours of oral arguments" over the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan rules. The 10-judge panel "focused much of their questioning on whether the EPA had overstepped its legal authority by seeking to broadly compel this shift away from coal, a move the EPA calls the Best System of Emission Reduction, or BSER. The states and companies suing the EPA argue the agency doesn’t have the authority to regulate anything outside of a power plant itself."

Source:
$28 MILLION THIS WEEK
Here Come the Ad Buys
10 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Spending by super PACs tied to Donald Trump friends such as Ben Carson and banker Andy Beal will help make this week the general election's most expensive yet. Republicans and Democrats will spend almost $28 million on radio and television this week, according to advertising records, as Trump substantially increases his advertising buy for the final stretch. He's spending $6.4 million in nine states, part of what aides have said will be a $100 million television campaign through Election Day."

Source:
GOP REFUSED VOTE ON FCC COMMISIONER
Reid Blocks Tech Bill Over “Broken Promise”
15 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Monday night's debate may have inspired some in Congress, as Senate Minority Leader has decided to take a stand of his own. Reid is declining to allow a vote on a "bipartisan bill that would bolster U.S. spectrum availability and the deployment of wireless broadband." Why? Because of a "broken promise" made a year ago by Republicans, who have refused to vote on confirmation for a Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission to a second term. Harry Reid then took it a step further, invoking another confirmation vote still outstanding, that of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Source:
FLINT FUNDING STILL AT ISSUE
Spending Bill Fails to Clear 60-Vote Hurdle
17 hours ago
THE LATEST
×