It’s hard to tell right now what’s up with Senate reform. On the one hand, reformers received a setback when Majority Leader Harry Reid gave a lukewarm statement of support in Nevada over the weekend. On the other, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) still claims he has the votes for a party-imposed reform plan.Harry Reid has been listening to the reluctant senators, and is leaning toward a much more moderate plan than the talking filibuster proposal that Merkley has been spearheading. Reid still has a "talking" filibuster element in his plan, but his wouldn't kick in until cloture had already been invoked on a bill, require a filibustering minority of senators to occupy the floor and speak after the debate has begun. But the Senate would still require 60 senators to approve debate starting, leaving ample opportunity for obstruction. Additionally, Reid wants to shorten the debate period, now 30 hours, after a cloture vote passes.
There are plenty of Democrats who support substantive reform … but several, perhaps a half-dozen or more, are very reluctant to do it by party-line vote. At the same time, the stronger front that Democrats can present, the better their chances of getting Republicans to buy in on a compromise package, one that might not go as far as many reformers want but could still make the Senate less dysfunctional.
Reid needs to hear from the pro-reform senators, too. And he is, from Jeff Merkley, Tom Udall, and Elizabeth Warren who are still fighting hard for a true talking filibuster.