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Filibuster reform will be the top item on the U.S. Senate's agenda after dealing with delayed aid for the victims of Superstorm Sandy, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged Tuesday.
Normally, rule changes are made on the first day of a new session, but Reid has kept that "first day" alive through the technicality of not adjourning the Senate. This means he can still invoke what supporters call the "constitutional option" -- and opponents have dubbed the "nuclear option" -- and change Senate rules with a simple majority vote, instead of the two-thirds majority usually required to make such changes.
"Because this matter warrants additional debate, today we'll follow the precedent set in 2005 and again in 2011 to reserve the right of all senators to propose changes in the Senate rules. We will explicitly not acquiesce in the carrying over of all the rules from the last Congress," Reid said, implicitly raising the argument that the Senate is not a "continuing" body that operates under the same rules every session unless the members say otherwise.
While Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) has proposed a "talking filibuster" bill that Democrats can pass with only 51 votes on the first day, Republicans have proposed a potentially bipartisan bill of watered down changes. Senator Reid is seeking GOP goodwill by trying to negotiate a bipartisan compromise with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).
12:35 PM PT: In an update to this article Senator Reid has clarified a more aggressive time frame for the rules delay, apparently to put pressure on the GOP to compromise.
The Senate will reform the filibuster within the next day and a half -- whether Republicans go along or not, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday afternoon.
"I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we're going to move forward on what I think needs to be done," Reid told reporters. "The caucus will support me on that," he added.