McConnell, left, and Reid have agreed to modestly modify Senate filibuster rules and appear to have a gentlemen’s agreement to avoid the constant quorum calls that have plagued the chamber in recent years.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t take a bolder step to fix the Senate, but what is most important today is the deep determination of Senators to return the Senate to a more functional institution,” he said. “If the modest steps taken today do not end the paralysis the Senate currently suffers, many Senators are determined to revisit this debate and explore stronger remedies.” On the issue of nominations, the Reid-McConnell agreement sets, as a standing order for the 113th Congress, much shorter limits on post-cloture debate on routine nominations. On district judicial nominations, which often get up-or-down votes anyway, the debate would be limited to two hours after breaking a filibuster, while there would be no more than eight hours on a host of other nominations, not including senior officials such as Cabinet nominees or other senior judgeships.
The deal averted a situation in which Democrats had planned to assert their ability to change the rules by a simple majority vote. They argued such a vote was possible at the start of a new Congress, but Republicans charged that the Senate is a continuing body and that the rules allowed them to erect a 67-vote hurdle to rules changes.
To lift the threat that Reid might try again this Congress to use the so-called “nuclear option,” Reid pledged that any further changes to the rules must follow the regular order.
“Any other resolutions related to Senate procedure would be subject to a regular order process, including consideration by the Rules Committee,” Reid said in a colloquy between Reid and McConnell that was inserted in the Congressional Record. The pledge effectively diffused the “nuclear option” until at least January 2015.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.