Senate passes on filibuster reform, eliminates secret holds
The push to reform the filibuster fell flat last week when the United States Senate met for the first time in the new session:
The top Democrat and top Republican in the Senate agreed Thursday to swear off seeking major changes to rules in the chamber in this Congress — and the next one.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced a series of rules changes for the Senate on which he struck an agreement with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), among them an agreement to not seek changes to the filibuster or other rules.
“We’ve agreed that I won’t force a majority vote to fundamentally change the Senate … and he won’t in the future,” Reid said in remarks early Thursday afternoon on the Senate floor.
Under that option, Democrats would have sought reforms by using a simple majority vote, reasoning that, on the first formal day of a new session, the Senate can change its own rules with a majority instead of the 67 votes normally needed to change a rule.
But Democrats never seemed able to reach an agreement on the scope or type of changes, and Reid announced a more modest set of changes on which the parties would vote Thursday afternoon.
The Senate did eliminate “secret holds” in a 92 to 4 vote. This tactic allowed members to anonymously block legislation. They could be defeated with 60 votes, like a filibuster. According to USA Today, “Under the agreement on other rules, Republicans said they won’t filibuster as many bills and Democrats agreed to give the minority more opportunity offer amendments.”
Many Senators currently in the majority no doubt thought about what life would be like when they return to the minority without that sacred procedural protection.