Filibuster Reform Dies As Time For “Constitutional Option” Expires

Any chance of filibuster reform in the 112 Congress died a quiet death yesterday:

WASHINGTON — The window to change the Senate rules during this session through a simple majority vote ended without action last night as lawmakers in the chamber agreed to adjourn the first day of the 112th Congress.

“They adjourned last night,” said a top GOP aide. “We’re no longer in the first legislative day.”

A senior Democratic aide confirmed last night’s adjournment, a formal end to the “first day” of the legislative session, which had actually been prolonged since early January. With it went the chance for Democrats to exercise what’s known as the “constitutional option” — a maneuver that, rules-reform advocates said, would have allowed members to present their procedural changes with 51 votes.

The Democrats’ abdication of the constitutional option was negotiated hours and days earlier. In talks with leadership, Democratic lawmakers had expressed ambivalence about setting such a precedent for future chambers. Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) had asked for unanimous consent to consider their package of rule changes, but it was rejected.

“To be able to invoke the constitutional option, a resolution has to be placed on the Senate calendar and to place something on the calendar you need unanimous consent,” a Senate aide said. “Unanimous consent was rejected last night.”

Instead of filibuster reform, we’ll get trimming around the edges by doing things like eliminating secret holds and streamlining the confirmation process. Check back in January 2013 to see if they try this again….

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.