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Senate Rules Reform Fight Likely To Be Drawn Out For Weeks

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WASHINGTON -- Operatives leading the lobbying effort for Senate rules reform said Monday that they expect Democrats to delay consideration of the issue until late January in hopes of crystallizing final support for a package of fixes.

It has been widely anticipated that Senate Democratic leadership would make a dramatic attempt on Wednesday, the first day of the new Congress, to revamp the use of the filibuster. But in a brief interview with The Huffington Post, Shane Larson, the legislative director for the Communications Workers of America and a key player in a progressive coalition pushing for rules reform, said that the date for that drama could be pushed back until Jan. 24.

"We don't expect them to vote on this Wednesday or Thursday," said Larson. "They will not adjourn. They will recess, so when they return on the 24th it will still technically be the first day of the legislative session."

By delaying consideration of such a reform measure, Democrats will be giving themselves a larger window to build up support for a final package. The party, according to an operative working on the issue, will consider a variety of proposals this week, including one from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who has championed a revision to filibuster rules that would decrease the 60-vote threshold over a series of votes. That approach is not expected to pass, but will serve as the "left flank" of the prospective proposals.

Other Democratic senators, notably Tom Udall (N.M.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) are also expected to discuss their proposals for rules reform on the floor this week. After the Senate adjourns, Democrats will likely discuss which provisions stand the best chance of passing, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), chair of the chamber's Rules Committee, getting a major say over the composition of the final product.

Expectations were high for Senate Democrats to settle on a package of reforms over the New Year's break, but Larson framed the new timing as a potentially significant boon for final passage of rules reform, noting that leadership could fully nail down the 50-plus votes necessary to push something through via the "constitutional option."

"Up until now, we have not had a real package to rally around, something to get our folks to call their senators to say support this fix," he said. "Now we will actually have one, and if we can come in on the 24th with 53 Democrats to cosponsor the package, it is a done deal. "