December 3, 2012

J. Scott Applewhite, AP

It is known that at least eight Democratic Senators are either noncommittal about — or are openly cool towards — the idea of reforming the filibuster with the “constitutional option,” i.e., a rules change by simple majority. That’s too many for comfort. If Harry Reid loses six or more Dem Senators, and if Republicans unanimously oppose it, filibuster reform could die.

The White House recently confirmed that it supports the push for reform. But will Obama actively engage in lobbying Dem Senators who are wavering, and will Obama For America’s political machinery mobilize grassroots sentiment to pressure them?

While Obama and OFA have little influence over GOP members of the House, they might have more luck swaying Dem Senators, particularly since many of those who got elected, or won reelection, did so partly by uniting the Obama coalition behind themselves. But as Ari Melber notes, it’s unclear how actively involved Obama and OFA will get:

Several are from bright blue states where OFA is strong and Obama won by large margins, such as California, Michigan and Hawaii, Obama’s birthplace.

 

The White House recently said it generally supports the rule changes, and Vice President Joe Biden will be gaveling in the new Senate (given the vice president’s official role as Senate president). But a White House official declined to comment on whether it would fight on this issue or engage the grassroots.

It’s understandable that the White House would be wholly consumed with the fiscal cliff talks right now. And it is important that the White House declared support for reform. What’s more, there’s still time for the White House to get more actively involved.

But it is worth reiterating that filibuster reform is anything but assured. Here are some of the senators who are thought to be at risk or in need of persuasion: Dianne Feinstein, Max Baucus, Mark Pryor, Jack Reed, and Pat Leahy — and senators-elect Joe Donnelly and Heidi Heitkamp.

Liberal blogs and others will likely soon start doing their own whip counting and mounting their own efforts to pressure individual Senators not to waver. It’ll be interesting to see how involved Obama and his political operation get. Now is the time to reform the filibuster, with public memories of unprecedented GOP obstructionism still fresh and the GOP brand in tatters. But it is still possible that it won’t happen.

 

Greg Sargent writes The Plum Line blog, a reported opinion blog with a liberal slant -- what you might call “opinionated reporting” from the left.