Senate Democrats will make a dramatic effort to reform the rules of the chamber when the next Congress begins, one of the body's primary filibuster-reform advocates said Wednesday morning. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has championed a weakening of the procedural mechanism that allows the minority party to hold up legislation, predicted "fireworks" on Jan. 5, 2011 -- the day on which the Senate can, he argued, revamp its rules by a simple majority vote. "There could be some fireworks. There could be some fireworks on January fifth," Harkin said at a pro-reform event sponsored by several like-minded organizations. "I'm going to be there. I'm armed. I'm armed with a lot of history, and I know the rules, and I know the procedures too, so we will see what happens on the fifth."
Essentially, that path to reform requires Vice President Joe Biden -- who supports weakening the filibuster -- to rule on the first day of the next session that the Senate has the authority to write its own rules. Republicans, presumably, would immediately move to object, but Democrats could then move to table the objection, setting up a key up-or-down vote. If 50 Democrats voted to table the objection, the Senate would then move to a vote on a new set of rules, which could be approved by a simple majority. Harkin's explicit planning may be the most detailed public statement on reform strategy to date. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) has long been advocating changing the Senate rules on the first day of the next session, so as to skirt a supermajority threshold, but his proposal was considered just one of several being pushed by pro-reform advocates.
The shape of the final product that Democrats attempt to push remains unclear. Proposals range from a gradual reduction in the vote threshold needed to break a filibuster to a simpler requirement that the minority party keep all 40 members on the floor to sustain it. Harkin hinted that the GOP is looking to cut a deal with Democrats in an effort to ensure that anything they pushed was not too far-reaching. "Right now there are talks going on with Republicans and Democrats for some changes so we don't get to that point," he said. But, at least before an audience of reform advocates, Harkin seemed uninterested in incremental changes. And while there may not even be 51 votes to change the rules, let alone any Republicans willing to compromise, Harkin insisted he wouldn't settle for reforms that still allowed the minority party to bring the legislative process to a halt.
This is fantastic. The system has been broke for a long time,;hing needs to be done. President Obama's judicial nominees have the worst confirmation statistics of any recent president, procedural roadblocks are thrown up to keep bills from straight up and down votes, cloture motions have set Congressional records by Republicans for the last three years.
This chart's projected cloture votes was woefully low. According to Op-ed piece, it's about 114.