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Harry Reid’s Job Secure, but He Faces Harrowing Road Ahead

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Sources tracking discussion of changing the filibuster say Reid has been talking about changes such as eliminating filibusters on motions to proceed and requiring Senators staging filibusters to hold the floor in person. A vote on such changes would likely occur in January or February.

Sources have speculated that to try to preserve the filibuster but enact some reforms, Reid may decide to push through a rule forcing any Senator who wants to filibuster to be on the floor to register objections.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on MSNBC on Tuesday night seemed to hint at that outcome.

“It depends on the numbers of Democratic Senators elected as to whether there will be filibuster reform,” Durbin said. “I’ve taken a look at some of the proposals, and I think we need them.”

He added that the Senate “needs to be functional, we need reform that makes a filibuster count. You want to filibuster? Stick around, don’t go out to dinner.”

Using a majority vote to push through a controversial Senate rules change could ignite a furious partisan backlash from Republicans that could stymie Obama’s agenda at the very time the president will want to capitalize on his re-election.

Manley said changing the filibuster rules would constrain Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). But he cautioned that McConnell likely has already gamed out scenarios that would allow him to impede the Senate’s progress in other ways.

“I am confident that he has already figured out a way to do so,” Manley said. “The question is whether he will. ... Something is going to have to give, because people are sick and tired of gridlock.”

Even if Reid decides to try to limit filibusters in the new Congress, he will not have any new tools to knock down GOP roadblocks during the post-election session beginning next week.

While both parties hoped the elections would bring some clarity to fiscal cliff deliberations, the scenario now appears to be the same players re-engaging on the same issues they have fought over throughout this Congress. The Bush administration tax cuts expire Jan. 1, at the same time that $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts in discretionary spending begin to take effect. Government borrowing is expected to hit the debt ceiling by year’s end, and the Treasury can only do so much to give Congress extra time to get its act together in the opening months of 2013.

Democrats have largely assumed that an Obama re-election — along with continued Democratic control of the Senate — would shake loose Republicans willing to capitulate on the president’s demand that taxes on the highest earners go up in the new year. GOP sources have said Obama’s victory may put some tax increases on the table for them, but not the top tax rates for the wealthy. Indeed, Boehner took the stage at the GOP election watch party in Washington early on Tuesday night to declare that raising taxes on the rich is a nonstarter in the lame duck.

But Reid struck a conciliatory tone Tuesday night when it became clear he would keep his job.

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