The Senate Reform Proposal
Yesterday the Democrats introduced their cloture reform package, and I’d give it about one cheer. Here’s a brief rundown on what the Majority Leader proposed.
1. End secret holds. Good idea, though it won’t matter all that much.
2. Reduce the maximum number of hours for debate on nominees once cloture is invoked from 30 to 2. Also worthwhile, especially as I wrote an op-ed arguing for this change back in October. (No doubt that left them all quaking in their boots.) This could make a difference for some judicial and executive nominations.
3. Remove the need to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed. Fine, though modest.
4. The final item is the much-vaunted “talking filibuster” change. Unless I’m missing something, this is basically a joke. The proposal is that if a cloture petition fails, then the minority must hold the floor as long the item that was the subject of the cloture vote is the pending business.
This is no different from the current rules–it’s entirely symbolic. If the Majority Leader does not withdraw a filibustered bill or nomination as the pending business, he can force the minority to hold the floor continuously. The point is that he almost never chooses to do that. The new “rule” doesn’t make that more likely. It doesn’t say, for example, that the filibustered measure must stay on the floor for a certain period of time after cloture is rejected. That would have more teeth.