On the question of Senate rules, which are due to be the first item for action when the chamber returns Jan. 22, Reid offered suggestions that could form the framework for a deal with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But his proposals would fall short of what Democratic advocates and outside groups have pushed for. Democrats have argued that Republicans have forced them to file cloture, or a motion to cut off debate, on too many pieces of legislation, resulting in bills being either blocked or delayed because of the time-consuming nature of the cloture process.
“If you invoke cloture on a piece of legislation, people get 30 hours to sit around and do nothing. I want to get rid of that,” Reid said. “I think that we have to make sure that on a regular piece of legislation, if somebody wants to continue objecting to it after the cloture’s been invoked, they should have to stand and talk. There should be a talking filibuster.”
While he used the term “talking filibuster,” Reid was not referencing the plan floated by several Democratic senators, including Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico. Those senators want a process by which the cloture process could be negated if Senators do not take to the floor to oppose it. That plan could nullify the 60-vote threshold to cut off a filibuster in current rules. Reid did not suggest this, saying the proposal he is envisioning would be post-cloture.
He does want to see ways to curb the 30 hours of debate after the 60-vote margin has been established and wants to cut down the number of cloture motions needed to get a bill into conference with the House.
“If you tune in to C-SPAN, you see quorum call in progress. Well, I want to stop those quorum calls,” he said on Vegas PBS. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, has predicted the Senate will reach a compromise to prevent a toxic standoff over a rules change.
Immigration Will Be ‘No. 1 Item’
While liberal activists are likely to be disappointed in Reid’s comments on the “Nevada Week in Review” program, they may have much better feelings about his statements in support of an immigration overhaul. He said he talked Friday with leadership and staff and determined “it’s going to be the first thing on our agenda.”
“Immigration’s our No. 1 item” on the list of top 10 priorities for Senate Democrats in the new Congress, he said.
“We’re going to do immigration. Schumer’s the head of that subcommittee. He replaced Sen. [Edward M.] Kennedy, and we have a bipartisan proposal,” he said.
Reid also suggested that a legislative proposal on immigration including a path to citizenship and a measure similar to the DREAM Act to provide more access for people who came to the United States as children had a greater chance of coming together than some may believe.
He said a bipartisan group of senators working on the issue “have agreed tentatively on a path to citizenship, which is the big stumbling block.”
The interview aired several times over the weekend in Nevada, where Reid has been spending time since the Senate departed for a two-week break after action on Jan. 4.