As Reid approaches this critical deadline, here are some thoughts for him. They're actually thoughts from him over the past nine months.
- Sen. Reid in December: “We’re going to change the rules. We cannot continue in this way. So I hope we can get something Republicans will work with us on. But it won’t be a handshake. [...] We tried that last time; it didn’t work.”
- Sen. Reid in November: “I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them. We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the Senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done."
- Sen. Reid in July: “We could have [changed the rules] in the last Congress. But I got on the Senate floor and said that I made a mistake and I should have helped with that.”
- And in May, after Senate Republicans blocked the reauthorization of the Export-Import bank, Reid stated, “If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight. These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong—or most of us, anyway. What a shame. [...] If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rules, because it’s been abused, abused, abused.”
Reid is reportedly backing away from the idea of reinstating a talking filibuster, a rule that would require the opposition to a bill or nomination to sustain their opposition vocally, transparently, and through some hard work. That's the least that should be required of our Senate.
On the other hand, Reid is said to be considering a rule that could work to end frivolous filibusters: shifting the burden to the minority to provide 41 votes to prove they have numbers to prevent a vote, instead of forcing the majority to gain 60 votes. That too would end the ability of a single, anonymous senator to block a vote and force the opposition to own their obstruction, making blocking progress much more difficult.
The talking filibuster would be tremendous reform, and flipping the burden on blocking votes would be huge. Adopting them in combination would help make the Senate function again. At the same time, neither would take away minority rights. Votes and nominations could still be blocked by the minority, but that effort would have to once again be out in the open with floor statements and/or recorded votes.
Reid has to put forward at least one of these proposals, preferably both. He's reportedly willing to use the "constitutional option," a 51-vote majority, to pass the reform. He needs to make it count.
If you don't have a Democratic senator, call Reid's office at 202-224-3542, and tell him to include the talking filibuster and/or flipping the burden of the filibuster.