WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Tuesday that if he was working with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to strike a deal on the filibuster, but that if an agreement was not reached in the next two days, he would move ahead with the so-called “nuclear option” and change the filibuster rules with just 51 votes.
“I had some positive meetings with Sen. McConnell before the recess,” Reid said, adding that their staffs had also been meeting.
“We had another meeting today, and I think that within the next 24-36 hours we can get something that we agree on,” Reid went on. “If not, we’re gonna move forward with what I think needs to be done. The caucus will support me on that.”
Reid would change the rules of the filibuster, forbidding the minority from filibustering on the motion to proceed. In order to filibuster a bill, lawmakers would have to hold the floor “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”-style.
To make that change, Reid would have to invoke the nuclear option, changing the rules of the Senate with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the traditionally required supermajority.
Some members of Reid’s own party have expressed reservations about the maneuver, worrying that it would set a bad precedent that would hurt Democrats should they be the minority party in future Congresses.
Republican Sen. John Barrasso, one of eight members of a bipartisan group that got together “to try to make sure that if we changed the rules, that we didn’t break the rules to change the rules,” said Tuesday that remaining discussions were being carried out by Reid and McConnell, but that “they’re using as a basis for discussions the piece that we put together for them.”
Barrasso said some of the proposed changes had been “discussed” at the conference lunch Tuesday.
McConnell acknowledged on the floor Tuesday morning that the Senate was not functioning well, but implied that he did not believe it was the result of the filibuster.
“Let’s face it: the status quo isn’t working. The Senate isn’t functioning as it should, and it has nothing to do with a process that has served us well for a very long time,” he said. “But if we work together and strive to avoid some of bad habits that have developed around here, I truly believe that we’ll be able to achieve the kinds of solutions that have eluded us for the past four years. And deliver some positive results for the people who sent us here, with time to spare.”