Potential Senate Majority Leaders Schumer and Durbin Both Back Filibuster Reform
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is reportedly planning to hold hearing in the Senate Rules Committee to examine possible filibuster reform. This follows last month’s public endorsement by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) for a bill that would end the option to permanently kill a bill via filibuster. If current Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) loses this year – which polling numbers indicate could easily happen – the next Senate majority leader is likely Durbin or Schumer.
This raises the interesting question of why they have both recently come out in support of Senate rules reform. The two likeliest answers is that you can’t be elected majority leader without supporting filibuster reform; or after watching Reid struggle this year, no Democrat would possibly want to be majority leader with the filibuster still in place as it is now.
Clearly there is growing frustration in the Senate Democratic Caucus with the filibuster, rules of the Senate, and unprecedented level of Republican obstructionism. This is creating a strong desire for change.
What I do think gets overlooked is just how little Senate experience most of the Democratic Caucus now has after two wave elections and the Obama administration appointing several seasoned senators to cabinet positions. Twenty members or over 1/3rd of the Democratic Caucus has been in the Senate for less than four years. That is a large group of members who potentially feel no attachment to the Senate’s broken rules and self destructive traditions and only see a body in which it is impossible to achieve almost anything. This group of young senators is likely to be the driving force behind any reform push and a huge deciding factor in who would be elected majority leader.
The fact that Schumer and Durbin now both publicly support Senate rules reform is a strong indication that the idea enjoys majority support in the caucus. (Of course it is easier to build broad general support for the idea of change; when it comes down to deciding details, the Democratic caucus could quickly fracture on the issue.) It could also indicate that after watch Reid flounder for a year in the face of Republican obstructionism that both of them want to be a majority leader that can actually accomplish things and see rules change as a necessity to that end.
With Schumer and Durbin both backing filibuster reform I would upgrade the chances of systematic Senate reform from very remote to unlikely but possible. Hopefully the positive result of Republicans continued strategy of pure obstructionism might be mounting pressure for filibuster reform; we might eventual restore proper Constitutional majority rule to the Senate.
Update – Harry Reid is now backing filibuster reform which effectively means that every potential Democratic majority leader in the next congress supports reforming the Senate rules. I would say the chance of reform has now gone from “unlikely but possible” to “possible.”