Reforming the filibuster

Updated
By Michael Scotto
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, following the Democrats' weekly strategy...
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, following the Democrats' weekly strategy...
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Fed up with gridlock, some Democrats are taking aim at the filibuster, the Republican Party’s weapon of choice for holding up President Obama’s agenda.

Since 2007, the year Democrats took control of the Senate, the filibuster has been used 388 times.

“Each one of those objections takes a week of the Senate’s time,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). “Since there aren’t even 400 weeks in six years, you can start to see how this has completely paralyzed the Senate from doing the business it needs to be doing.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to make the filibuster less attractive by proposing a return to the old “talking” one, which requires senators to stand on the floor of the upper chamber and speak for the duration of the filibuster. Currently, lawmakers can object silently, often from the comfort of their office or home.

Reid has drawn the ire of Republicans for threatening to make these changes using the so-called “nuclear option,” a method that allows the Majority Leader to modify rules through a simple majority, instead of the typical two-thirds vote.

“We would all prefer to have a supermajority adopt rules, but what we know historically is that the rules are only changed when you first know that 51 are prepared and ready, under the Constitution, to adopt new rules,” said Merkley. “That then drives negotiations.”

Reforming the filibuster

Updated