Lawmakers leading the charge acknowledge they remain short, but express optimism they’ll hit their goal.
“I haven’t counted 51 just yet, but we’re working,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a leading proponent of the so-called constitutional or “nuclear” option, in which Senate rules could be changed by a majority vote.
“We’re building the momentum right now,” Udall said. “It’s hard to say at this point, but I think it’s looking very good. The last two years have really helped coalesce people’s minds around the idea that we need to change the way we do business.”
The problem for Udall and other supporters of filibuster reform is that many veteran Democratic senators remember when the filibuster was a useful tool in their years in the minority.
Dems don't want to go on record as making the Senate so partisan? Really? Have you guys seen the last four years? Your new Senate collegues were specifically elected because they ran on fixing the filibuster:
All seven Democratic senators-elect — Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tim Kaine (Va.), Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) — have pledged to support filibuster reform. Sen.-elect Angus King (I-Maine) made filibuster reform a central plank of his campaign.
But Democrats can’t count on a number of their “old bulls,” as was reflected by a vote just two years ago.
Udall, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) proposed a package of reforms for the 112th Congress that would have eliminated filibusters on motions to proceed to new business. Their package also would have required senators wanting to hold up legislation or nominees to actually hold the floor and debate, and shortened to two hours the time that must elapse after a filibuster on a nominee has been cut off.
The package failed in a 44-51 vote, with Democratic Sens. Jim Webb (Va.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Herb Kohl (Wis.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and Reid voting no. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), John Kerry (Mass.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) did not vote.
Dems better figure out a way to get this done. You can bet the next time the GOP gets control of the Senate, they sure as hell will.