January 23, 2013

Democrats push to limit filibuster if pact not reached

A majority of Democrats will vote for some changes as long as they don't include talking endlessly.

Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Wednesday said Democrats will pursue their plan to curb the use of filibusters to block legislation if the party and Republican lawmakers don't reach agreement on the matter this week.

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The U.S. Capitol in Washington.

The Associated Press

A majority of Democrats - at least 51 - will vote for some changes to the filibuster procedure, as long as those don't include requiring senators to hold the floor by talking endlessly, Reid and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber's second-ranking Democrat, said in interviews Wednesday.

Specifically, 51 Democrats would vote to eliminate the use of the filibuster on motions to proceed to legislation, Durbin said. There would also be majority support for limiting, or disallowing altogether, use of the filibuster to block sending bills to conference with the House or limiting debate on judicial nominations, Durbin said.

Requiring senators who are filibustering to speak on the floor for up to 30 hours of debate time could also have majority support, Durbin said.

Durbin didn't say whether there would be enough support to pass a proposal by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., that would require at least 41 senators to cast votes to keep a filibuster going. That change, which he called the "Franken- wrinkle," would reverse the current process that requires those seeking to end a filibuster to record 60 votes.

Reid, D-Nev., said he is waiting for a response from Republican leader Mitch McConnell before determining how to act on the procedural issue.

Reid told reporters Tuesday he would wait 24 to 36 hours to see if a bipartisan agreement could be reached. "If not, we're going to move forward on our own," Reid told reporters.

The filibuster was made famous in the 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." The title character, portrayed by James Stewart, collapses from exhaustion after speaking on the Senate floor for almost 24 hours nonstop to delay a vote on a bill during a dispute over corruption.

These days, senators seeking to block a bill don't take to the floor and speak for hours on end. Instead, Senate rules allow any member to object at multiple stages in the legislative process.

A measure's proponent then can start a multi-day process, known as invoking cloture, to seek the 60 votes to move forward.


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