As newly elected Senators arrive at the Capitol for orientation this week one thing’s for sure, the prospect of Senate rules reform is now closer than ever.
A recent New York Times editorial put things into perspective.
“In January, at the beginning of the next session of the United States Senate. Democrats can vastly improve the efficiency of Congress and reduce filibuster abuse with a simple-majority vote. This time they need to seize the moment.”
The incoming class of Senators includes eight members who strongly favor changes to the antiquated Senate rules that have largely contributed to gridlock, dysfunction and partisanship over the the last few years.
Some, like Independent Angus King, even made rules reform a central part of his election platform.
“I’m not arrogant or naïve enough to think that one guy from Maine is going to be able to fundamentally change this structure,” King said of the Senate. “But I do think you’ve got to start somewhere, and I think I can be a catalyst for it.”
King and the other newly-elected senators favoring reform join 42 other lawmakers who are ready for change. So far, it seems that rules reform has 50 votes in favor.
In order to actually change the Senate rules at the start of the session, there has to be a majority, or 51 votes, in support of the measure.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M, is leading efforts to build a coalition for reform.
“We’re building the momentum right now,” Udall said. “It’s hard to say at this point, but I think it’s looking very good. The last two years have really helped coalesce people’s minds around the idea that we need to change the way we do business.”
Udall would also like to attract Republican support to the idea, believing a bipartisan agreement would be stronger for the nation.
"We’re working with them," he said. "We’re having private discussions. I can tell you privately that many Republicans are not happy with the way we do business in the Senate right now."