Liberals Pushing Reid to Change Filibuster Rules

Sunday, 24 Feb 2013 07:59 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should revisit filibuster reform if Republicans keep blocking Chuck Hagel's nomination for Secretary of Defense, some of his fellow Democrats are saying.

The Nevada senator has the option to reconsider the so-called “nuclear option,” a drastic tactic for changing Senate rules with a simple majority vote, reports The Hill. Republicans say Reid has promised not to take that option, but Democrats say he can still change the rules for the 113th Congress and should change them if Republicans keep holding off on Hagel.

Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska said there is still time for Reid to change the rules, even though Congress is in session. It would take only 51 votes, he noted.

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Many liberals are not satisfied with filibuster reforms Reid has already agreed to with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to help the chances of passing immigration reform and other measures.

However, Democrats claim that the Republicans' moves to block Hagel call the agreement into question. On Thursday, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior party member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, urged colleagues to prevent Hagel's nomination from reaching a final vote on the Senate floor.

Reid and McConnell's reform package limits floor time for sub-cabinet level nominees once the Senate moves for a final vote. However, there's nothing to keep filibusters from blocking votes on cabinet-level and Supreme Court nominees.

Republicans seem to be coming around to Hagel. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said last week he would vote for Hagel, giving him the 60th vote he needs to advance.

But George Kohl, senior director at Communications Workers of America, said Reid should reconsider the filibuster rules if Republicans continue blocking Obama's nominees.

"Either he has to pull out the cots and keep everyone in session until we get through it or he'll have to reconsider the rules,” said Kohl.

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