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General News    H2'ed 1/28/11

Could 51 Votes Trigger the Real Constitutional Option?

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV today announced a compromise struck with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY over Senate Rules changes on filibusters and delaying tactics. 

"The changes we'll agree to here today are, first, eliminating secret holds, second, by reducing by about one-third the number of executive nominations that are subject to delays, third, ending the time consuming practice of reading aloud the amendments that have been publicly available for three days, fourth, limiting the use of filibusters on motions to proceed, and fifth, filling the amendment tree only when necessary."  

Reid said he has an agreement with McConnell that Reid will "not force a majority vote to fundamentally change the Senate, that is the so-called Constitutional option," and that McConnell won't do so in the future.  McConnell said he and Reid are working on a colloquy that will reflect the entirety of their understanding.   However,  this so-called "gentlemen's agreement" does not have the full effect of a rules change.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, applauded much of the compromise, but said, "I strongly disagree with the idea that the two leaders are taking off the table us using our Constitutional Rights."  He said the agreement struck was good for the two leaders, but Constitutionally does not apply to the other 98 Senators.

The resolutions introduced Tuesday
by Sens Udall, Harkin, D-IA, and Merkley, D-OR, will be debated and come to a floor vote.  Sources in Washington say that they will be viewed as amendments and will require 67 votes to pass.  Sen. Udall said on the floor today, after the compromise was announced, that he is still calling for 51 votes to pass those resolutions. 

Success in obtaining 51 votes for a rules change could trigger a Constitutional showdown.  

"I cannot surrender the rights under the Constitution to use the majority to continue to pursue rules to make our broken Senate work better," said Merkley.

A vote is scheduled for later today.

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Sue Wilson tells important stories which move politicians to act. The Emmy winning director of the media reform documentary "Broadcast Blues" and editor of, Sue recently founded the Media Action Center. Wilson was 1987's (more...)

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