Democrats Say They Have the Votes for Filibuster Reform, and for the "Nuclear Option"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 23 2013 12:26 PM

Democrats Say They Have the Votes for Filibuster Reform, and for the "Nuclear Option"

The filibuster reform story is moving like quicksilver: My piece from last night, about the last-minute wrangling, is being overtaken by events. Basically, Democratic aides tell me that the party is not likely to accept a Reid-McConnell reform deal unless it includes a change that "flips" the filibuster. Instead of the majority requiring 60 votes to block a bill, the minority would need to muster 41 votes to block a bill. That idea wasn't part of the McCain-Levin proposals that I describe in the article. One Democrat puts it this way: "The 41 vote change would only happen if Reid decides to go it alone."

And that's the game theory I describe, the thorny issue explained by Ezra Klein here. Democrats MIGHT be willing to accept a smaller reform package if enough Republicans are willing to pass it. If those Republicans hold out, Democrats know they can pass much more rigorous reform with 51 votes. If you're Jeff Merkley, do you want Mitch McMcConnell to kick over the chess board so you get the better deal? More importantly, even if you're a reformer, do you think there's ANY filibuster reform that wouldn't be interpeted by the Rand Paul-Mike Lee-Tim Scott-Ron Johnson quartet as the hi sign to "blow up the Senate"?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.