The Senate has called off its five-week rules fight after outlawing the post-cloture filibuster.
Sponsors called the action forbidding filibuster by amendment after the Senate had voted to limit debate on a bill an important strengthening of the filibuster rule.
Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), by adjourning, rather than recessing, the Senate overnight on Thursday and by removing his other proposals as the pending Senate business, signaled that he will not press for the rest of his rules change package now.
The Senate had remained in the same legislative day since it convened January 15. The effect of adjourning and beginning a new legislative day makes it impossible for Byrd to attempt to enforce the theory that on the first day of a new Congress the Senate is not bound by its old filibuster rule and that rules changes could be forced to a vote by a simple majority.
Byrd pointed out to the Senate that his other more controversial proposals to prevent stalling tactics can now be forced to a vote only by a two-thirds vote. (Debate on bills can be limited by a three-fifths vote, but cloture on rules changes requires two-thirds.)
Byrd's other major change would have barred a preliminary filibuster on a motion to take up a bill. He had argued that one filibuster -- on the bill itself -- was enough. But Republicans were strongly opposed to his plan and it appeared certain that Byrd could not get the two-thirds vote he needed to get the Senate to consider the measure.
The prohibition against post-cloture filibusters was approved 78 to 16, with almost all opposition coming from conservative Republicans. Even southern Democrats left over from the days when the filibuster was their weapon against civil rights bills supported the change. Sen. Russell B. Long (D-La.) said they had always accepted cloture as the end of the fight and felt that this was essential for the Senate to function.