If you thought Harry Reid had given up on filibuster reform, think again.
Reid issued an ultimatumyesterday to Mitch McConnell on reaching a compromise for a new set of rules that would make the filibuster more difficult to apply. If McConnell doesn’t meet his deadline, Reid says he’s prepared to go nuclear:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that if he was working with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to strike a deal on the filibuster, but that if an agreement was not reached in the next two days, he would move ahead with the so-called “nuclear option” and change the filibuster rules with just 51 votes. …
“We had another meeting today, and I think that within the next 24-36 hours we can get something that we agree on,” Reid went on. “If not, we’re gonna move forward with what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that.”
Reid would change the rules of the filibuster, forbidding the minority from filibustering on the motion to proceed. In order to filibuster a bill, lawmakers would have to hold the floor “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style.
To make that change, Reid would have to invoke the nuclear option, changing the rules of the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditionally required supermajority.
Will the caucus support Reid on the nuclear option? That’s a good question. Right now Democrats have a 55-45 majority in the Senate (with the inclusion of two independents caucusing with Reid), and fairly good control of the chamber.
However, at least a half-dozen Senate Democrats will either retire or face red-state voters in 2014, and the remaining members of the caucus may recall that the President’ party traditionally does very poorly in second-term midterm elections.
Whatever they try to jam through in a nuclear option in 2013 may end up leaving them subject to the same rules as the minority in 2015 — and Reid will have set a precedent for rule-changes that would allow Republicans in the majority to make those rules even worse.
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