WASHINGTON -- Indiana's Senator-elect Dan Coats is endorsing filibuster reform, becoming one of the few Republicans to back a legislative proposal to change the way the Senate works.
"I think, at the very least, we need to remove the 60-vote rule for bringing a bill to the floor and actually debating it and voting on it," he said in an interview on Sunday on Fox News. "The American people deserve that we are transparent with them, that we take one item at a time, that we register our yeas and register our nays, and be accountable to the American people for what we've done. It's been too much gathering everything at the end and throwing it into one big package."
"There's just too much need for moving forward with action to address our serious economic situation and a number of other issues to not go forward on that basis," he added. "So I'm going to work to try to streamline the situation and move things forward."
What Coats supports, as he also told NPR last week, is removing the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed.
But as Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress noted, Coats' proposal would not get rid of the 60-vote filibuster completely. "Present Senate rules permit senators to filibuster both the beginning and the end of debate on most bills," wrote Millhiser. "Coats' proposal would eliminate pre-debate filibusters, but still give senators an opportunity to filibuster before a bill can receive a final up-or-down vote. Nevertheless, because the Senate's rules also allow the minority to force up to 30 hours of delay every time a filibuster is broken, Coats' proposal would be a meaningful step towards eliminating a minority's power to delay virtually all Senate business into oblivion.
Changing the rules of the Senate is tough. In fact, it takes the votes of 67 senators. But the new Congress has a window of opportunity on this issue. As Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a proponent of filibuster reform, has pointed out, each new Congress has the ability to change its rules with the approval of just 51 votes. Therefore, in January, the Senate has perhaps its best chance for procedural reform.
Republicans have generally resisted filibuster reform. A recent survey conducted by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling found that 64 percent of the public supports filibuster reform.
President Obama also said, prior to the elections, that he supports changing the filibuster threshold. "If all you have to do is muster 40 people to say no, how do you foster an atmosphere in which [consensus is reached]," added Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, noting that Obama supported reform whether or not Democrats retained the majority in Congress.