Democratic attempts to change filibuster rules using the “nuclear option” could wreck the potential for productive compromise on major legislative issues in the next Congress, leading Senate Republicans said.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told The Hill
that Democrats do not yet have the votes to invoke the nuclear option, which would make a filibuster more difficult.
Also referred to as the Constitutional option, it would involve Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proposing the rule change; the Senate parliamentarian likely rejecting it; Vice President Joe Biden, the Senate president, overruling that decision; and the full Senate ultimately voting on the change.
The process is considered controversial because it sidesteps traditional Senate procedure. In the event of a tie, it would allow Democrats to redefine filibuster rules.
“We hope Democrats will work toward allowing members of both sides to be involved in the legislative process — rather than poisoning the well on the very first day of the next Congress,” said Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Udall is pushing a proposal similar to what he offered last year with fellow Democrats Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Harkin of Iowa. It would require that senators attempting to filibuster return to the practice of remaining on the floor to prevent further debate or votes. It also would eliminate filibusters to block new business.
Udall is short of the 51 votes needed to invoke the Constitutional option, yet he expects that some Republicans may be open to the idea, even if some senior Senate Democrats are unsure they want to change the rules, anticipating the time their party is back in the minority.
“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.”
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