WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have reached an agreement on a set of relatively small changes to the upper chamber's rules, including an informal pact to reduce the number of filibusters in exchange for allowing more amendments from the minority party.
Three aspects of the deal would be considered as standing orders and would thus require only 60 votes for passage, rather than the 67 generally needed for Senate rules changes. A Democratic Senate aide said that as part of the deal, both parties whipped members to make sure they had enough votes. The final agreement includes the final provisions, according to a document obtained by The Huffington Post:
· Eliminating secret holds, including the right of senators to pass their secret holds to another anonymous senator to keep a rolling secret hold.
· Eliminating senators' rights to force the reading of an amendment that has already been submitted for 72 hours and is publicly available.
· Legislation to exempt about 1/3 of all nominations from the Senate confirmation process, reducing the number of executive nominations subject to Senate delays, which will be scheduled at a future date under the terms of an agreement reached by Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lamar Alexander, Homeland Security and Government Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman and HSGA ranking member Sen. Susan Collins, along with Sens. Reid and Chuck Schumer.
In addition, Reid and McConnell have entered a colloquy into the record establishing that Republicans would make an effort to filibuster less in exchange for Democrats reducing the use of the "filling the tree" parliamentary procedure to block them from offering amendments.
"It is a handshake agreement," the Democratic aide said. "At the end of the day, I anticipate that it will be violated. But as with anything else with politicians, they don't want to come off as hypocrites. And we can now point back to this agreement."The overall package falls well short of what rules-reform advocates had sought. Reid's office has slated individual votes on separate measures for Thursday afternoon, but as they will be considered rule changes and require 67 votes for passage, they are virtually certain to fail. The list of amendments is below:
- Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin's resolution amending the standing rules of the Senate to provide for cloture to be invoked with less than a three-fifths majority after additional debate;
- New Mexico Democrat Tom Udall's amendment establishing that a senator publicly disclose a notice of intent to object to any measure or matter; and
- Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley's amendment that would, an aide said, "require a certain number of senators to remain on the floor in order to filibuster."