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“Constitutional option” to change Senate rules


Action Alert 
Senate Rules

The resolution to improve the debate and consideration of legislative matters and nominations in the Senate, was introduced by Democrats Tom Udall of New Mexico, with 24 Democratic cosponsors, including Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Harkin of Iowa. Since his arrival in the Senate, Udall has led a group of Democrats who are largely new to the chamber that would like to assert a “Constitutional option” to change Senate rules on the first legislative day through a simple majority vote. Detractors call this a “nuclear” option.

Senate Republicans, oppose the move and charged that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is mounting an unprecedented "power grab" that will essentially eliminate use of the filibuster in many cases like fighting liberal Supreme Court nominations.

"It would forever change the nature of the Senate and constitute a naked partisan power grab. Such a move would disrespect our bipartisan system and the will of the American people," says a memo from the Senate Republican Policy Committee, headed by potential presidential candidate Sen. John Thune.

Backers of Udall’s position argue that each new Senate cannot be bound by the decisions of prior Senates. Opponents of that argument say that because only one-third of the Senate is elected every two years, the chamber’s rules carry over from one Congress to the next. A December 2010 Congressional Research Service report seemed to back this view, stating as fact that “the Senate is a continuing body.”


S Res 10 would make a series of changes to Rule 22 of the Standing Rules of the Senate, which governs limitations on debate and the cloture process.


S Res 10 would be the first significant overhaul of the process of ending filibusters in the Senate since 1975. It also would alter the method by which senators object to legislation and nominations ordinarily considered by unanimous consent in the chamber.

The proposal would:

  • Limit debate on motions to proceed to bills and resolutions for two hours, and therefore not subject such motions to the cloture process.
  • Establish a filibuster requirement that senators must hold the floor to block ending debate on a measure.
  • Retain existing cloture thresholds, currently three-fifths of senators duly chosen and sworn required to vote in favor of limiting debate in most cases other than rules changes.
  • Prohibit senators from launching objections on behalf of other senators, without naming that senator, in an attempt to curb “secret” procedural holds.
  • Provide for each party leader to offer three germane amendments to legislation once cloture is invoked, with debate limited to one hour on each individual amendment.
  • Reduce the current 30 hours of post-cloture debate allowed on nominations to two hours.

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Comment by Lee Norris on January 26, 2011 at 7:54pm
Thank you Ray for this very important information,  without your your blog i would of had no idea whats going on up there,,



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