Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that senate leaders are getting close to a deal on filibuster reform and the chamber will take up the issue soon, probably after taking up a bill to award $60 billion in aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy.
"Once we complete that vital legislation," Reid said of the Sandy bill, "the Senate will take action to make this institution that we all love — the United States Senate — work more effectively."
"I'm confident we'll reach an agreement that allows the Senate to operate more effectively in coming months," he said in remarks on the Senate floor.
Democrats have been vowing to reform the Senate's rules to make it harder for the minority party to bog down action by requiring nearly every bill to win 60 votes and clear a Republican filibuster. They believe the filibuster, once a legislative tool invoked only rarely, has become abused. Republicans say it is their only way to get a voice in a chamber where Democrats routinely prevent the GOP from offering amendments to key legislation.
Senate procedure calls for the chamber to adopt new rules at the start of each term. Democrats could take advantage of the moment to muscle through a change to filibuster rules on a simple 51-vote majority. Taking advantage of that so-called "nuclear option" would likely inject a whole new level of partisan rancor into the already divided Senate, however. Instead, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have been negotiating a possible bipartisan deal to tweak filibuster rules and allow the chamber to work more effectively.
Ordinarily, rule changes would have to take place right after the new Senate was sworn in, a ceremony which took place Jan. 3. However, the Senate agreed that it would hold open its first official legislative day, to allow more time to work on a deal. Reid indicated that the Senate will recess today, rather than adjourn, to keep open that legislative day.
"The Senate will recess today rather than adjourn to carry out conversation on this important legislation this month," Reid said.