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Senate Dems, GOP Cut Deal on Filibuster

12:32 PM, Jan 24, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Senate leaders in both parties are brokering a deal to avert the so-called nuclear option Senate majority leader Harry Reid has threatened with regard to changing the body's filibuster rules. A Senate Republican aide confirms that the negotiated proposal between Reid and the GOP is well under way but will not include the requirement of a "talking filibuster"--a top priority of Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, a leader of the filibuster reform movement within the Senate.

The deal does include a number of changes to the rules for which Democrats like Merkley and his colleague Tom Udall of New Mexico have been agitating. The Huffington Post has more details on the final agreement:

The deal would address the filibuster on the motion to proceed, which had regularly prevented the Senate from even considering legislation and was a major frustration for Reid. The new procedure will also make it easier for the majority to appoint conferees once a bill has passed, but leaves in place the minority's ability to filibuster that motion once -- meaning that even after the Senate and House have passed a bill, the minority can still mount a filibuster one more time.

Reid won concessions on judicial nominations as well. Under the old rules, after a filibuster had been beaten, 30 more hours were required to pass before a nominee could finally be confirmed. That delay threatened to tie the chamber in knots. The new rules will only allow two hours after cloture is invoked.

The two leaders also agreed that they will make some changes in how the Senate carries out filibusters under the existing rules, reminiscent of the handshake agreement last term, which quickly fell apart. First, senators who wish to object or threaten a filibuster must actually come to the floor to do so. And second, the two leaders will make sure that debate time post-cloture is actually used in debate. If senators seeking to slow down business simply put in quorum calls to delay action, the Senate will go live, force votes to produce a quorum, and otherwise work to make sure senators actually show up and debate.

Under these changes, the minority party's position is weakened, though Republicans claim the reforms would have been much more drastic if Reid had forgone the deal and used the nuclear option--changing the rules with a simple-majority vote--to get the full slate of changes Merkley, Udall, and other liberals wanted. According to the Huffington Post, a liberal group called Fix the Senate Now called the deal a "missed opportunity."

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