With Democrats lacking a filibuster-proof majority, Sen. Chuck Schumer plans to begin holding hearings to reform the potent stalling tactic, an issue that has picked up steam among liberal and junior Democratic senators.
The hard-charging New Yorker, who chairs the Rules and Administration Committee, plans to move forward with a hearing on March 24 after discussing the issue with Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.), two men who have grown concerned with the increased use of filibuster threats to derail legislative business, an aide said Tuesday.
The first hearing is expected to examine the history of the filibuster, with Senate historians testifying before the committee. The following hearings will likely focus on specific filibuster reform proposals that have been offered by Udall, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), and other senators. The aide said there will be at least three hearings on the issue.
With their agenda stalled and Democrats one vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated that Republicans have demanded that many pieces of legislation require a supermajority of senators to advance. Democrats acknowledge they lack the votes to reform the filibuster, but are eager to argue that the procedural tool has been abused to an unprecedented level in recent years.
Schumer's move comes after his potential rival for the majority leader spot, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), has recently signed onto Harkin's bill to reform the filibuster and has advocated more aggressive tactics to put a spotlight on the GOP's dilatory acts. Some may view the senators' latest efforts as ways to score points with Senate Democrats frustrated by seeing bills die in the upper chamber and eager for more aggressive leadership.
But both men reject suggestions they're positioning for a potential run, saying they expect Nevada Sen. Harry Reid to come back and win his reelection bid, and remain majority leader next year.