Democrats May Not Have Enough Votes to End Filibuster

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 23, 2013   |   1:52PM   |   Washington, DC

The number two Democrat in the Senate today admitted Democrats may not have enough votes to end the filibuster. Leading pro-life groups have been lobbying members of the Senate to resist ending it, saying the pro-abortion agenda of President Barack Obama and Democrats could proceed unmitigated if that happens.

As The Hill reports:

Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), a leading liberal, said Wednesday Democrats do not have enough votes to implement the talking-filibuster reform.

He said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has suggested a package of more modest reforms to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). They include proposals to eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed to new business and to speed the process for sending legislation to conference negotiations with the House.

Reid is waiting for a response from McConnell. If McConnell declines to strike a deal, Reid has enough votes to implement reforms through the nuclear option, a controversial tactic whereby Senate rules can be changed by a simple majority vote.

But Reid does not have 51 votes to make the rules change that liberals say is most important: requiring senators who want to filibuster legislation to actively hold the floor and debate. If senators seeking to block business fail to continuously hold the floor, the matter could advance by a majority vote.

“I would say the talking filibuster at this point does not have 51 votes,” said Durbin.

In a recent legislative alert, the pro-life group Eagle Forum talks about the problems and urges pro-life people to contact their senators urging them to resist the changes.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is resorting to more dirty tricks to silence conservative opposition to his liberal agenda,” the group said. “This time, he convinced a few Republicans to go along with an alleged compromise on so-called “filibuster reform,” but the result will be the same – conservatives will be shut out of the process of legislating.”

Eagle Forum describes it as a “complex scam Harry Reid is pulling on the American people by using Senate procedure to not only shut conservatives out of the process, but to create the illusion that he is actually including them, then accusing them of being obstructionist.”

It said it is “thankful for conservatives like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky who … is pledging to stand up against Reid’s tyranny.”

The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List sent out a legislative alert to its members.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is threatening to change the rules of the U.S. Senate in order to make it easier to pass his agenda, including radical pro-abortion policies,”  it said.

“Longstanding Senate rules protect those in the minority by ensuring that the motion to move to any legislation requires at least 60 votes. If Senator Reid has his way, he could push through legislation in the Senate with just 50 or 51 votes – meaning that current pro-life laws could be put in jeopardy, and the Senate could pass legislation that furthers President Obama’s radical assault on Life and Religious Liberty,” the SBA List added.

“Contact your two Senators today and tell them you strongly oppose Senator Reid’s power grab,” it said.

The letter SBA List members are sending senators reads:

As your constituent, I am urging you to oppose Senator Harry Reid’s attempt to jettison long-standing Senate rules that have always been supported by both parties that would trample on the rights of the minority.

The filibuster has long provided the minority party the ability to influence legislation. The 60-vote threshold to end debate prevents the majority party from passing legislation without any input or influence by the minority party, forcing bipartisan agreements and allowing the minority party to offer amendments. Any attempt to change this is nothing but a power grab by the majority party seeking to block any input or influence of those not in the majority.

If the nuclear option is used, the Senate will forever be changed for the worse. Without the filibuster, power to legislate rests solely in the hands of whichever party happens to control 51 votes, leaving the minority party virtually powerless to influence legislation.

Please oppose Senator Reid’s power grab.

Previously, the National Right to Life Committee alerted pro-life advocates to the move with the hopes of stopping it.

“When the new Congress convenes on January 3, President Obama’s party will control 55 seats in the U.S. Senate — a gain of two seats over 2011-2012.  However, the longstanding Senate rules protect the rights of a Senate minority in ways that generally ensure that any legislation that will make a major change in federal policy will require 60 votes to be approved.  Currently, these rules act to provide vital protections for a number of pro-life policies that were enacted prior to the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008,” the group informed LifeNews.

“However, in recent weeks a grave new threat has emerged:  Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is threatening to force through major changes in the Senate rules,” NRLC added. “While Reid has not yet revealed all the details of his plan, the bottom line is that he wishes to greatly narrow the range of circumstances under which the minority could invoke a 60-vote threshold.  To say it another way, Reid wants to make it far easier to ram legislation through the Senate with as few as 50 or 51 votes.”

NRLC says Reid, who supports abortion, intends to institute this power grab by breaking the Senate’s written rules.

Under the current Senate rules, no Senate rule may be changed unless two-thirds of the Senate votes to agree to the change, or 67 senators assuming every senator votes.

But Reid has indicated that he intends to work in concert with Vice President Joe Biden — who, under the Constitution, has the right to preside over the Senate whenever he wishes — to disregard the two-thirds requirement and impose the new rules by a simple majority vote.

Under this scenario, Reid would require the agreement of only 50 of the 55 Democratic senators, plus Biden’s control of the chair.

Republicans are working to build opposition to the plan, which they have termed the “nuclear option,” while media outlets term it as “filibuster reform.”

National Right to Life says the pro-abortion agenda would march on unfettered if Reid and Democrats get their way.

“The important thing to understand is that if Reid actually pulls the trigger on the “nuclear option,” it will make it much more likely that the pro-abortion Senate majority will ride roughshod over the mostly pro-life Senate minority, at least for the next two years.  This could put in jeopardy major pro-life laws, including the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited most federal funding of abortion for the past quarter-century,” NRLC explains.



“Furthermore, if Reid is able to pull this off, it opens the door for him to employ the same rule-breaking, rule-changing method to later make further changes that would make it much easier for President Obama to pack key positions in the federal Executive Branch and the federal judiciary — including the Supreme Court — with extreme pro-abortion advocates, to an even greater degree than he accomplished during his first term,” the pro-life group adds.

All 45 of the Senate Republicans are expected to aggressively oppose the power grab and some Democrats are facing pressure to not support it as well, with even liberal pro-abortion Senator Dianne Feinstein of California saying, “I think that’s a mistake at this time but I’ll listen to arguments.” others like Senator Mark Pryor have said they are “reluctant: to support it and other Democrats who face re-election in 2014 may be cautious.

NRLC urges:  “Senator Reid’s historic power grab will play out between now and January 3.  If you don’t want President Obama using the U.S. Senate as a rubber stamp for his policies and nominations during the years just ahead, please immediately call [your senators].”

ACTION: Call the senate at 202-224-3121 or go to and urge opposition to killing the filibuster.


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