Today, the US Senate reached a bipartisan agreement for reforming Senate rules--but a proposal to require a "talking filibuster," cosponsored by Sen. Tom Udall, D-NM, didn't make it into the deal.


SFR interviewed Udall for last week's cover story on his four-part proposal to reform the Senate rules as a means of making the Senate more productive. Last week, SFR also reported that newly elected Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-NM, had signed onto the effort.

The centerpiece of Udall's proposal was the "talking filibuster," a requirement that senators seeking to block nominations or legislation actually come to the Senate floor and talk—ie, filibuster in the traditional sense.

The proposal also included changes that would allow the Senate to more quickly arrive at the point of actually debating legislation (rather than debating the question of whether to debate it) and reductions in the amount of time allowed for debating nominations and moving to conference committees.

Udal's proposal was favored by Democrats but opposed by many Republicans, so passing it in its entirety may have required Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to invoke the controversial "nuclear option," a constitutional provision allowing rules changes with just 51 votes.

But this morning, Washington news sources are reporting that Reid struck a bipartisan deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., instead.

Today's deal allows for some of the time-saving provisions Udall had advocated, but stops short of requiring a talking filibuster. Read the official text here and here. The Abq Journal's Michael Coleman also has a good summary of the details involved in the new agreement.

Coleman reports that even though the talking filibuster isn't technically part of the deal, Reid and McConnell have agreed to enforce it:

The two Leaders have also agreed that they will make some changes in how the Senate carries out filibusters under the existing rules.  First, bill managers and the two Leaders will call on Senators who wish to object or threaten a filibuster to actually come to the floor to do so.  Second, the two Leaders will seek to see that time post-cloture is actually used in debate.  If Senators seeking to slow down business simply put in quorum calls to delay action, the Senate will go live, force votes to produce a quorum, and otherwise work to make sure Senators actually show up and debate.

We'll see how that pans out, though. As Udall mentioned in his interview with SFR earlier this month, the last time a "gentleman's agreement" on Senate rules was in place, it "blew up within a matter of weeks."