Politics

Sen. Ron Johnson suggests possibility of compromise to avoid nuclear option on filibuster

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Alexis Levinson
Political Reporter

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson slammed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his plan to change the filibuster rules in January, saying that Republicans would not have to filibuster so much if Reid allowed more input from the Republican minority before votes.

Reid has said he plans to amend the rules governing the filibuster when the new Congress begins in January, so that if Republicans did want to filibuster a vote, they would have to do so “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style, speaking on the Senate floor for hours.

The majority leader says Republicans have “abused” the procedure, leaving the chamber hamstrung and unable to get anything done. (RELATED: Sen. Mitch McConnell says Reid’s filibuster proposal is a “naked power grab”)

Johnson said on a call with reporters Wednesday that Reid’s plan “shows his utter lack of respect for this institution,” calling the proposal a “Rubicon that they should not cross.”

He pointed to Reid’s past opposition to such a plan when Democrats were in the minority, saying the majority leader’s sudden change of heart is in reality an “amazing display of hypocrisy.”

But Johnson suggested that a compromise to avoid the so-called nuclear option is possible. Politico reported this week that some senators are talking behind the scenes in the hopes of cutting a deal that would prevent the rule change.

Johnson could not speak to the specifics of those talks, but suggested that there might be a path to compromise if Reid would allow Republicans to have more input before bills go to a vote.

Johnson called “filling the tree” — a process in which the majority party files all the amendments to a bill and does not permit the minority party to have any input — “the number-one frustration that Republicans are feeling.”

He said that if Reid backed away from that tactic, “I don’t think he’d be faced with the number of filibusters that he’s had to deal with.” Johnson added he is personally “not in favor” of some of the delay tactics that have in the past “ground the Senate to a halt.”

“I actually want to see the Senate work,” he said. “The way you get the Senate to work is not by breaking the rules to change the rules.”

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