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Senate near changing filibuster rules

Jan. 24, 2013 at 3:40 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) -- Republicans and Democrats in the Senate Thursday tentatively agreed on new rules to limit the filibuster, speeding up action on bills, officials say.

Current rules require 60 votes by senators just to bring filibustered legislation to the floor.

Once a rarely used procedure, liberal use of the filibuster has been blamed by both political parties for the Senate's gridlock in passing legislation and approving nominations.

Politico said the modest proposals under consideration avoid a partisan showdown in the Senate but do little to end the practices that led to calls for reform. Democratic and Republican caucuses were to review the filibuster rule proposals Thursday afternoon.

Some Democrats supported a wider-range proposal that would have required members to actually take and hold the floor during a talking filibuster -- instead of just to threaten a filibuster.

Democratic Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to limit the ability to stall Senate action at the beginning of debate and after a bill has passed the Senate and before negotiations begin with the House, Politico said.

In the 112th Congress that ended in early January, the filibuster was employed 115 times. In the 111th Congress, 137 times, more than double than during the early 2000s when Democrats were in the minority, The New York Times said.

The tentative deal would eliminate filibusters to prevent lawmakers from considering new business, The Hill said.

Sources told Politico the changes would limit Republicans' use of the filibuster to allow minority members to offer two amendments to legislation as it comes up for vote on the floor. If the amendments are not germane to the bill they would be subject to a 60-vote majority.

"Unfortunately, the incremental 'reforms' in the agreement do not go nearly far enough to deliver meaningful change," the Fix the Senate Now coalition, a group including Common Cause, the Sierra Club, labor unions and progressive organizations, said in a statement. "If the agreement proceeds as expected, Senator Reid and the entire chamber will have missed an opportunity to restore accountability and deliberation to the Senate, while not raising the costs of obstruction."

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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