Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a leading champion of filibuster reform, told TPMPrime members during a live chat Wednesday that Democrats will have the votes to weaken the minority party’s power to obstruct when the Senate returns next week.
“There are a number of folks who are working to get their hands around how these proposed changes would work in practice,” he said. “Senator Udall — my core partner throughout this battle — and I both believe that when Majority Leader Reid says ‘here is my package and I need you all to back it,’ he will have 51 votes behind him.”
He said the only clear holdout among the 55 Democrats is Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI).
“News reports have had a reasonably accurate list of the Senators who are solidly there and those who are still working out the details,” Merkley said. “As of this point, the only person who has said that he will definitely oppose Reid’s package if it is to be done with 51 votes is Senator Levin.” He added that Levin has held his views for many years.
The Oregon Democrat, who has enlisting outside allies for the cause, said the competing proposal by Levin and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) would be a step backward.
“I don’t see Levin/McCain as a step forward because it doesn’t address the silent secret filibuster that the minority uses to kill legislation. In addition, it introduces the poison pill problem,” Merkley told TPMPrime. “It is important to recognize, however, that Senator Levin is being completely consistent with the position he took in 2005 when the Republicans threatened to change the rules to eliminate the filibuster on judges. The Republicans only agreed to pull back from changing the rules, however, when the Democrats essentially agreed to what the Republicans wanted making changing the rules unnecessary.”