Several newer Democratic Senators have been trying to modify that body’s institutional rules to make the filibuster more difficult to use by the minority. It can be done by simple majority on the first legislative day of a new Congress, and Majority Leader Senator Reid of Nevada has been extending that day by calling the Senate “in recess” rather than adjourning for the day. Reid himself is ambivalent about using this technique, called “the nuclear option” by Republicans and “the Constitutional option” by Democrats, so he’s trying to do a deal with Senator McConnell to reduce the filibuster’s attraction to the minority by forcing them to muster at least 41 of their members in the body when a filibuster is declared.
Reid has now give McConnell an ultimatum: make up your mind in the next 24 to 36 hours or Reid will proceed on his own. The new Senators are concerned that Reid may go wobbly on them, and they may be right.
As Reid weighs his options, champions of filibuster reform are wary that Republicans will agree to any meaningful changes. And the leading Senate champion of reform is pushing Reid to ditch his hopes of bipartisanship and move forward with the constitutional option.
“Leader Reid has left open two paths to rules changes,” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) said in a statement late Tuesday. “While I’ve always thought that improving how the Senate works should be an area ripe for bipartisan agreement, it is clear at this point that the constitutional option would produce the strongest package and make the Senate more functional.”
“I — well, satisfied is a relative term,” [Senator Jeff] Merkley told reporters of Reid’s direction. “I would like to see the talking filibuster. … So that’s kind of the gold standard. Sometimes you have to settle for the silver or bronze standard but I’m still advocating for the gold standard.”