Reid’s Senate Agenda: Filibuster Reform and Immigration Reform

I’m getting two things out of Harry Reid’s post-election press conference. One, there will absolutely be changes to the filibuster in the next Congress. They may not be maximal changes, but I would get that the bulk of the Udall-Merkley reform program will get instituted.

In his first post-election press conference, the Nevada Democrat said he wouldn’t go so far as to eliminate the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for the chamber to enter and exit the amendment and debate process. But in remarks meant to preview a more combative approach during the next session, he warned Republicans that obstructionism as a tactic won’t be tolerated — or as technically feasible.

“I want to work together, but I also want everyone to also understand, you cannot push us around. We want to work together,” Reid said.

“I do” have plans to change the Senate rules, he added. “I have said so publicly and I continue to feel that way … I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them. We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done.”

My expectation is that Reid makes it dramatically easier to confirm nominees, and ends the filibuster on the motion to proceed, effectively cutting in half the time delays in the Senate. With Rick Berg conceding defeat in North Dakota and Angus King likely to caucus with Democrats, Reid will have 55 members and can even lose up to five of them on a vote to change the Senate rules. I think he will enforce party discipline here and get a lot of the changes, at the very least on eliminating the filibuster on the motion to proceed.

The second thing I got out of it is that Reid plans to milk the new American demographics for all they are worth in the next Congress, particularly on the issue of immigration.

“It’s very, very high on my list,” said Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the leader of the chamber’s re-elected Democratic majority, who vowed “to have some votes” on immigration.

Calling the Democrats “the party of diversity,” Reid said he would seek Republican votes on immigration and singled out Senator John McCain of Arizona, who earlier supported reform measures but later faced a conservative backlash.

“The only thing we need to get immigration reform done are a few Republican votes. I get 90 percent of the Democrats — couldn’t we get a few Republicans to join us?” Reid told reporters in Washington.

“If the Republicans continue, it’s at their peril. Not for political reasons — because it’s the wrong thing to do to not have comprehensive immigration reform. The system’s broken and needs to be fixed,” Reid said.

90% of the Democrats sounds about right – he’ll lose some at the margins, maybe as maybe as 5 votes. That would require 10 out of 45 Republicans to come forward – assuming the filibuster exists in some form – to pass a bill. And I think Reid knows that won’t happen. And even if it did, the House would be an even more impossible climb.

But the goal here is to only expand the Democratic lead in the Hispanic vote in national elections – now around 70% – and make it impossible for Republicans to ever win a nationwide race again. That’s a bit hyperbolic but it looks like the plan. It would be political malpractice not to use the leverage of demographics to pummel Republicans over immigration again and again. Reid knows it works because he wouldn’t be in the Senate right now without it. So he’s going for it.

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