Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senators Discuss Options for Changing Filibuster

The package would also expedite motions to go to conference with the House, with cloture motions ripening after two hours and no post-cloture debate.

On nominations, the proposal would designate 531 nominations for expedited process, leaving 448 to go through the traditional committee process review — unless a senator objects to a nominee.

A cloture motion would ripen after two hours, with no post-cloture debate, under the package if invoked. This change would not apply to prospective members of the Cabinet, officers, officers of Cabinet-level agencies or Article III judges. It would apply to district court judges.

“A major issue that the majority leader has had to face is the filibusters on district court judges,” Levin said. “Effectively, we would say that the post-cloture part of that, which is so troubling — 30 hours of debate after someone has been given 60 votes — that that 30-hour period would be reduced to a two-hour period.”

The package would also call on the enforcement of current rules that the group of senators say are not enforced.

For example, under current rules if no one seeks recognition and the Senate is not in a quorum call, the presiding officer can call for a vote on a measure.

“Under the current rules, which have not been enforced . . . there is precedent in the Senate that if there is no one seeking to debate then the chair may call the question, by the way that is either pre-cloture or post-cloture,” Levin said.

“We are “urging our leaders . . . to alert folks that we are going to apply the current rules,” Levin continued. “We think this is overcome some these filibusters which have so far been able to succeed without anybody talking.”

But Merkley said that in practice those current rules do not require a senator to continually be talking during a filibuster.

“Because the rules allow anyone to call a quorum call and because they can do multiple quorum calls no one has to stay on the floor and talk,” Merkley said.

He also said the proposal doesn’t address the practice of secretly blocking legislation. Currently a senator can simply threaten to filibuster without actually having to go to the floor to make a case.

Merkley said that discussions are expected to continue ahead of a decision by Senate leaders before Jan. 3, when the next Congress begins.

“There is going to be more conversation within the caucus, which Majority Leader Reid has promised, so that we can get everybody’s questions answered with the expectation that he will be able to put together a final package and have 51 senators standing by,” Merkley said.

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