On the Senate's first day back after its Thanksgiving recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stressed the urgency of finding middle ground on upcoming issues -- but also found himself disagreeing with the opposition over making changes in wielding the filibuster in the chamber.
Reid began by quoting the late Dwight Eisenhower, "People talk about the middle of the road as though it is unacceptable to make the point that too often Republicans and Democrats in Washington face off from positions never realizing solutions rest not on one side or the other, but somewhere in the middle." The majority leader said he hoped members "used Thanksgiving not only to give thanks, but to reflect on the monumental times ahead."
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed that the Senate has a full plate in the coming weeks, and the importance of the decisions made. He also touched on the importance reaching a middle ground. "The only balanced approach is one that includes real and lasting reforms," he said. "So republicans have stepped out of our comfort zone. We've been clear about what we will do and what we won't. And yet we remain at an impasse."
McConnell added, "The election is over... The time for campaigning is over. It's time for the president to lead. We'll continue to wait on the president, and hope that he has what it takes to bring people together to forge a compromise. If he does, we'll get there. If he doesn't, we won't. It's as simple as that."
But then came the disagreement -- over an effort by some Democrats to alter the rules of the Senate.
McConnell called these proposed changes an "affront to the American people," saying that "shutting off [the minority's] right to express the views of our constituents, as is being proposed, would effectively shut these people out of the process." He repeatedly said that Reid plans to "break the rules in order to change the rules."
Reid countered that the changes he is proposing would only help to make the senate "more efficient" by fixing problems with the filibuster. He said "Americans believe Congress is broken. The only ones who disagree are Mitch McConnell and the Republican Party."
According to Politico, Democrats are considering several options to reform the filibuster.
The menu of options has included banning filibusters that block the start of floor debates and House-Senate conference committees from convening. Another change would force senators to actually get up and talk endlessly in order to filibuster legislation – in the mold of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
Also on the table is a so-called “nuclear option,” which would call for just a simple majority, or 51 votes, to change Senate rules. Changing the rules usually requires two-thirds of the chamber, or 67 votes. The proposed package of changes, which will come in the beginning of the next Congress, has yet to be finalized.