Of course, making progress on everything from immigration to gun control to voting rights would be a lot easier if it weren’t for the ability of Senate Republicans to thwart the will of the majority by filibustering. In recent years, the GOP has turned the filibuster from a rare tool used only for the most important measures into a routine method of obstruction.
That’s why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in a change of heart spurred by a group of Democratic reformers, has made clear that when the new Congress opens, he’ll push forward with an effort to make filibustering much harder. The details aren’t yet set in stone, but Reid is considering scrapping filibusters on motions to proceed, as well as requiring that those conducting a filibuster actually appear on the Senate floor to talk non-stop, upping the potential political cost. Of course, Republicans are maneuvering to limit the reach of any reform—and they may get help from some of the more establishment Democrats, who are worried that making it easier to pass legislation with 51 votes could threaten their negotiating leverage. There are few things that senators of either party will hold on to more zealously than their own power. So expect a dogfight.