Harry Reid: Is the Senate Leader Ready to Abolish the Filibuster?


Back in January, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) did not have the votes necessary to trigger the so-called "nuclear option" — a change to the Senate rules that would abolish the filibuster and break the logjam of President Obama's nominees who have been blocked by Republicans.

Yet as of this moment, if Reid attempted to implement the talking filibuster reform, it would be a very close vote.

The Sierra Club, a member of the Fix the Senate Now coalition lobbying for rules reform in the Senate, believes that the vote would be extremely close, but that Reid would be able to garner the 51 votes needed for reform.

Reid is likely becoming agitated with the possibly of not having enough votes to invoke filibuster reform, even though Democrats have the majority in the Senate.

Notable Democrats who have not pledged to be among the 51 votes needed for reform include Senate Armed Services Committee Charmian Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

While it is unknown where centrist Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) stand, one thing is certain: If this count is accurate, Reid has little room for any additional defections.

Members of the Fix the Senate Now coalition have been meeting with Senate Democratic offices to gauge evolving support for filibuster reform.

Dalal Aboulhosn, an advocate at the Sierra Club, said it will be easier to change the filibuster rule for stalled nominees than for reworking it rule for controversial legislation.

"I think if we narrow it down, we would be able to see more progress than we have on the larger reform even though the larger reform is just as important."

Back in January, Senate Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made a very public statement and revealed that Reid did not have enough votes at the time to implement the talking filibuster reform by a party-line vote.

Senate Democratic aides and liberal coalitions like Fix the Senate Now say that even though Democrats and Republicans struck a deal to streamline Senate floor business at the start of the year, the agreement has done "virtually nothing" to alleviate the obstruction of Republican blockage of presidential nominations.

Republicans have vowed to block the nomination of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and have delayed both the nomination of Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency and Tom Perez to serve as secretary of labor.

If Republicans continue to create a blockade of presidential nominations, Democrats will up their ante in the filibuster reform debate by bringing some of Obama's yet-to-be-named nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to the floor — oh, wait. Monday's headline? "Obama to Nominate Three Judges to D.C. Court." How lovely. This fight may happen sooner than we thought.