Senate Democrats have the 51 votes necessary to weaken the filibuster, the top two Democrats declared unequivocally on Wednesday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he’s continuing discussions with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) over a bipartisan resolution. But when asked if he has the 51 votes for filibuster reform via the constitutional option if that fails, he didn’t mince words.
“Yes,” Reid said.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) told reporters that the Merkley-Udall “full talking filibuster” approach likely won’t happen because it “does not have 51 votes.” But he said a more modest package that Reid has put forth to McConnell, aimed at shifting the burden from a governing majority to an obstructing minority, would pass.
“The proposal from the majority leader,” Durbin said, “suggests changes in reducing and eliminating the motion to proceed, how many cloture votes you’ll face in conference committee, what happens to nominations after cloture, whether it’s 30 hours a piece or 2 hours a piece — that is a significant change.” After cloture, he said, “We all believe there should be an obligation to stay on the floor and speak or move the question.”
Durbin said he’d prefer to reach a bipartisan agreement. But he said there is precedent for using the constitutional option and that although he’d hate to go go that route, “if we have to to get the Senate working again, I support it.”
Do they have the votes to do it? “Yes,” Durbin said.
Reid reiterated his ultimatum to McConnell to make a deal or watch Democrats go it alone.
“I am not going to negotiate things here,” Reid said. “Senator McConnell and I are talking. The point is this: we’re going to change how we do business around here. We can do it the easy way or the hard way, but it’s going to change.”
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.