Godfather Harry Reid has made the GOP an offer they can't refuse: Get on board filibuster reform in the next 2 days or else.
The Nevada Democrat said he would give Republicans another 24 to 36 hours to agree to filibuster reform and then trigger the so-called nuclear option. This controversial tactic would allow him to change the Senate rules with a simple majority vote.
"I hope within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we're going to move forward on what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that," Reid told reporters.
Although its use has been threatened in the past to spur the minority party to agree to reforms, the nuclear option has never been used to change the standing rules, say parliamentary experts.
Reid has come under heavy pressure from liberal advocacy groups to drastically limit the minority party's power to filibuster and delay legislation.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee on Tuesday launched a 36-hour pressure campaign targeting Democratic senators to back using the nuclear option to implement an ambitious reform package.
Liberal activists have mobilized to press senior and centrist Democrats to endorse the package crafted by Sens. Merkley, Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). At the bill's heart is the talking-filibuster reform, which would require lawmakers who want to block legislation to actively hold the floor and debate for hours. If there is no further debate, the Senate would proceed to a simple majority vote.
Their measure would also prohibit filibusters on motions to proceed to new business, expedite the process for sending Senate legislation to conference negotiations with the House and reduce the amount of floor time needed to move nominees once the Senate has voted to end debate on them.
Reid, however, has received pushback from senior and centrist Democrats such as Sens. Carl Levin (Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Max Baucus (Mont.), Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.), who are not fond of the nuclear option.
Some reform of the filibuster is probably in order, simply because it was never meant to be used in an obstructionist manner as the Democrats did under George Bush and the GOP has done to a much greater extent under President Obama. The filibuster used to be employed to block legislation for which the minority was united. It took advantage of a Senate rule that gave every Senator the right to speak on the floor for as long as he wished. In order to hold the floor and prevent a vote, the minority would organize themselves and talk for days or weeks with members yeilding to others for questions and colloquies.
As long as the essence of the filibuster is maintained, reform should be supported. But some of the reforms offered by Harry Reid would gut the rule and make it impossible for the minority to block legislation. This is not in keeping with the integrity of the rules - especially if rather than 67 votes needed to change a rule, the Democrats employed the nuclear option which would require a simple majority.
Reid is frustrated but issuing an ultimatum is not the way to achieve reform.