By Ezra Klein
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — “I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours, we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters Tuesday afternoon. It’s now Wednesday. That means we’re in the filibuster endgame. And, as Reid tells it, it’s all up to his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Ky.
Reid has embraced a carrot-and-stick strategy on the filibuster reform. The “carrot” is the deal he’s offering McConnell. Its major provisions include eliminating filibusters on the motion to proceed and speeding the process of breaking filibusters against most presidential nominations.
The Senate’s reformers are crestfallen. This is not, in their view, filibuster reform. Forget breaking the Senate’s 60-vote requirement. This doesn’t even make senators stand up and talk, as would be the case under the proposal Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., were pushing.
But though Reid spoke admiringly of Udall and Merkley and even apologized for undercutting their previous reform efforts, he was never really on their team. “There are two camps here in terms of what the goals are,” says a leadership aide. “The upshot of the kind of reform that Merkley wants is to make legislation easier to pass. What the more veteran members, including Reid, have said all along is they’re mainly focused on making things work more efficiently. To put it bluntly, that’s about moving things more quickly.”
The last, best hope for filibuster reformers is that McConnell won’t take Reid’s deal. In that case, Reid is preparing a backup plan that includes both of the items in the Reid-McConnell talks and one more: An innovative reform that changes who bears the burden for cloture votes.