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Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell are reportedly close to working out a deal on filibuster rules reform. While solid details haven't yet been released, and won't until the leaders hash out details with their respective caucuses in luncheons today, the outlines fall far short of what will be necessary to make the Senate a place where stuff actually gets accomplished, although it does make some procedural improvements.

Here's what people informed on the talks report is happening.

The deal, which is not yet final, makes very modest changes. It would permit the majority to bypass a filibuster on the motion to proceed to debate—if a group of senators on each side agree or if there’s a guarantee that both sides will get to offer amendments, the sources said Wednesday evening.
It also includes an expedited process for some nominations and lowers the number of cloture motions required to go to conference with the House.

The emerging agreement reflects the plan that Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Carl Levin (D-MI) put forth to avoid further-reaching filibuster reform that proponents wanted. But it tweaks some aspects to address Democrats’ concerns that it would empower the minority to add poison pills to legislation.

The final unresolved detail in the negotiations between the two leaders involves the amount of post-cloture time for nominees, the sources said, describing it as a minor hurdle.

Additionally, according to Sen. Carl Levin, the plan includes an end to secret holds, requiring that the objecting senator be present and make his or her case on the floor. So that's something.

Where reformers and activists have been looking for reform to make the Senate actually accomplish something for a change, Reid and enough of his caucus have just been looking at ways to grease the wheels, focusing on process instead of outcomes. So the procedural stuff gets streamlined a bit, but the ulitmate goal of reformers—making filibusters extremely rare and costly through both the talking filibuster and flipping the burden—hasn't been achieved.

However, McConnell was forced to the table to negotiate away at least a part of his power. That's something that doesn't happen. Ever. So in that sense, it's not a total loss. The amount of pressure from the grassroots, netroots, and the dozens of organizations in the Fix the Senate Now coalition made some degree of reform happen, and reform that's not just a gentlemen's agreement but will be adopted as the new rule by a Senate vote.

Sens. Merkley, Udall, and Harkin—who have kept the ball rolling inside the institution—aren't going anywhere, and aren't going to stop pushing for real reform. Neither is the Fix the Senate coalition that has gotten us to this point. The last time any change in Senate procedure happened, it happened after nearly a dozen failed attempts and over years. So, get used to us, Sen. Reid. We're still here.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 08:41 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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