Senate Democrats are not poised to reform the chamber’s filibuster rule anytime soon despite recent comments from Majority Leader Harry Reid that he wishes he had backed such efforts last year.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said the Nevada Democrat’s comments Thursday were sparked by his frustration over Republicans’ refusal to accept a House-passed measure that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which facilitates the sale of U.S. exports to foreign buyers.
A senior Senate Republican aide also said that Reid’s comments were not interpreted as an effort to jump-start filibuster reform, but more as Reid blowing off steam.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said Monday that he is not aware of a reform effort but noted that recent sparring on the Senate floor has revolved around the minority being able to offer amendments to legislation.
“The problem that we have right now is that too often Republicans are denied the opportunity to offer amendments, and that is clearly counter to all sense of fairness as well as the traditions of the Senate” the Arizona Republican said.
Republicans wanted to offer five amendments to the Export-Import Bank bill, including a Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) amendment to phase out the bank. While the bill has support from much of the Senate Republican Conference, some conservatives oppose the bank because they believe it amounts to corporate welfare.
On Monday, Reid spoke on the floor imploring Republicans to back the House bill.
“The House passed this bill without amendment,” Reid said, adding that the overwhelming House vote on the measure, 330-93, should be enough for Senate Republicans to accept it without amendments. The measure was the product of a rare bipartisan deal between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Shortly before the Senate was to vote on sustaining a filibuster of the bill Monday, Reid reached a deal with Republicans to allow five GOP amendments and a guaranteed vote on final passage.
On Thursday, Reid sought unanimous consent to pass the measure as is. But Kyl objected and offered his own unanimous consent that would have set up a vote on the bill after consideration of five amendments, to which Reid objected.
After assailing Republicans for what he believes is obstruction, Reid went on to praise efforts by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to reform the filibuster, which critics argue has been abused and has led to gridlock on the Senate floor.
“If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight,” Reid said. “These two young, fine Senators said it was time to change the rules, and we didn’t.”
Rep. Bill Cassidy has his blood drawn by Alesha Barbour during a free hepatitis screening in the Rayburn House Office Building hosted by the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus to recognize "National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day."
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