Despite strong criticism from progressive supporters of reform, Senate Democrats rallied around the scaled-back filibuster deal negotiated by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday afternoon, broadly agreeing that the changes to the rules were at least a step in the right direction.
After a caucus meeting, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters that there’s overwhelming support for the agreement among Democrats, despite the protestations of those who wanted more sweeping reforms.
“That’s how this world works. People start aspiring at very high levels, then you get a negotiation, then you reach something called compromise,” he said. “There’s a very positive feeling among the people in our caucus. But the fact that the two leaders have been able to work it out together is great for the Senate.”
Asked by TPM if the deal will make it easier to pass bills, Durbin briefly hesitated. “It requires good will,” he said. “Good faith.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told reporters that she’s satisfied with the package: “Yes, I am. I think it’s sufficient.”
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said it’s a reasonable compromise. “I think it’s good,” she said. “I think it’s progress.”
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) was pleased that the deal looks like the proposal he put forth to avoid enacting further-reaching reforms with 51-votes.
“Look, we just can’t have a situation in the Senate where the majority can decide what the rules are at any time,” Levin told reporters. “Those aren’t rules. … That just becomes like the House of Representatives. So we avoided using a nuclear option which, I guarantee you, would’ve led to a meltdown in the Senate. It would’ve made the gridlock we’ve seen so far look like a Sunday school picnic.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said the package would make the Senate more efficient.
“I think these are useful efficiency measures that will allow the work of the Senate to proceed more quickly and more deliberately,” she said. “But it does fall short of the real reform I was hoping for.”
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) said he believes the deal will make it harder for senators to place secret holds on legislation. “I am with my colleague, Jeff Merkley, on the substance,” he told TPM. “But I think Senator Reid has done a very significant bit of reform.”
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) characterized the agreement as a step in the right direction.
“Yeah, I will support it,” he told TPM. “There are some who wanted to have additional reforms but this is — I think it’s a good way forward. Look, we have to try to reach bipartisan agreements around here on a more regular basis.”
Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) said the deal reflects “real progress” toward a more “functional” Senate. “I wish we’d gone one step further in terms of the talking filibuster,” he told TPM. “But I’m generally very pleased if we’re going to be able to take up amendments, move to bills and get back to legislating.”
Reid’s spokesman Adam Jentleson said the chamber could vote on the package as early as Thursday. McConnell’s spokesman Don Stewart said Republicans are reviewing the measure.
Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson (GA) said he will vote for the rules change.
“The rules change doesn’t really do a lot,” Isakson told TPM. “But it certainly preserves the 60-vote threshold, preserves the blue slip procedure. It preserves the filibuster. And that’s important heritage for the Senate.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.