(WASHINGTON) — Tired of D.C. gridlock? Check this out: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a tentative agreement on a set of procedural changes that could allow bills to get through the Senate at a somewhat faster pace.
The party leaders were running the deal by their members at policy lunches Thursday.
There is an important caveat – these changes will fall short of the major reforms that Democrats like Sens. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Jeff Merkely, D- Ore., had pushed for. The minority party will still be able to filibuster and require 60 votes on any piece of legislation. But if these changes are enacted the minority party – and more importantly individual senators – would have less power to slow legislation down by insisting on 30 hours of time before votes on procedural motions.
Under the tentative agreement, there are two ways around a “motion to proceed.”
As long as the majority leader allows four amendments – two per side – senators can bypass waiting to vote on a “motion to proceed” and move toward the bill without 30 hours of waiting. That motion to proceed would only require 51 votes and could not be filibusters. But there would still be a 60-vote threshold before a vote on the actual bill.
Or, if the majority and minority leaders agree and they have eight signatures from senators in each party, they can go straight to a bill a day earlier than before. Again, there are still 60-vote thresholds built into the process.
There are also a series of things that will speed up the process on district court judges and sub-cabinet nominees.
These changes won’t really take any rights from the minority, but they could grease some of the arcane procedural cogs that make legislation so difficult to pass.
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