Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., reached an agreement Thursday to modestly modify Senate filibuster rules in an attempt to speed up the legislative process on the floor.
While the package falls far short of what a group of more liberal Democratic senators had sought, it should accomplish one of Reidâ€™s stated goals: allowing business to progress more quickly. In no case, however, will senators lose the right to force a 60 vote supermajority vote on bills and nominations as provided under the existing rules.
Most significantly, the package would modify Senate procedure to provide two new expedited options for bringing legislation to the floor.
On legislative items on which Reid and McConnell agree to take up, the cloture vote on the motion to proceed would take place the day after the motion is filed, eliminating a waiting day. In addition, there would be no further debate after cloture is invoked, cutting out another day. That falls short of doing away with the ability to filibuster motions to proceed altogether. (Cloture motions, which limit debate, require 60 votes for adoption.)
Reid would have a second choice, however. The majority could proceed to legislation without risk of an initial filibuster if it guaranteed that each party is allowed to offer a pair of amendments. Partially resolving a concern publicly raised by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, amendments offered through that process would be subject to an automatic 60-vote threshold if they are not germane. Thatâ€™s based on an idea from Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
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