Can Harry Reid actually change the filibuster rules?


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has threatened to change Senate rules so that just 51 votes would end a filibuster on executive branch nominees, rather than the current 60 needed.

This morning, Reid explained that changing filibuster rules will keep the Senate relevant.

“My efforts are directed to save the Senate from becoming obsolete, to remain relevant and effective as an institution,” Reid said at a Center for American Progress Action Fund event Monday.

But Reid also used the speech, in front of a left-leaning audience, to criticize Senate Republicans adding, “The power of an extreme minority now threatens our integrity of this institution.”

Democrats and Republicans are set to meet Monday night to discuss the possible a rule change, but is a filibuster change even possible?

The Nevada Democrat’s current threat will likely face procedural hurdles, according to former Senate parliamentarian Robert Dove.

“It only takes a majority to change the rules of the Senate,” Dove explained in Monday’s “Deep Dive” on The Daily Rundown. “But if there is debate it takes 67 or two-thirds to shut off that debate. And my reaction is that this kind of proposal would be contentious and therefore it would require a cloture vote that was two-thirds.”

But Dove said that changing the rules is not impossible in theory. He cited the rules change of 1975 when a bipartisan group eventually gathered the 67 votes needed for a rule change.

However, given the divisiveness of the current Senate, a bipartisan 67 votes is nearly impossible for Reid’s proposal. Understanding the Senate rules and the current climate, Dove said he was unsure of what procedures Reid actually has in mind to pull off his threats.

“If he doesn’t get cloture, for example, on one of these nominees–he can lodge an appeal. But appeals are debatable. And it would take cloture to end debate on the appeal. So I don’t really know what he has in mind,” Dove said.

Regardless of how Senate Democrats might actually accomplish the rule change, Dove believes it will foster even more resentment among lawmakers.

“I can tell you there was bitterness over the way it was changed [in 1975] that lasted for years. And my reaction is that if this is also changed in that way, there would be bitterness again for years,” said Dove.

Can Harry Reid actually change the filibuster rules?