QUESTION: Majority Leader Reid just came out in favor of filibuster reform after he had, um, not been so keen to it the last time we had an opportunity. I know that that’s an area where you’ve done a little bit of work. Do you think that [filibuster reform] is likely to happen when we get the window?
WHITEHOUSE: Yep, I do. . . . I think that the major targets will be the double filibuster, filibustering both the motion to proceed to the bill and then the bill itself. That would be one target. I think the other major target of filibuster reform will be changing the rules of the filibuster so that the filibustering minority actually has to spend time on the floor defending its filibuster, rather than, right now, it’s the majority trying to get to 60 that has to be ready to fend off quorum calls and have all the Senators ready — and only one senator needs to be around from the minority side to defend the filibuster.
The “window” my question refers to is a brief, constitutionally required period every two years shortly after newly-elected senators are sworn in. During this short window, the Senate can alter the filibuster rules or even eliminate the filibuster altogether with just 51 votes. Normally, 67 votes are required to change the Senate’s rules.
As ThinkProgress previously explained, Senate Democrats may not have a choice when the next window opens next January, assuming that Democrats maintain control of the Senate and the White House. Longtime Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) was recently defeated in the GOP Senate primary by a candidate who objected to Lugar’s votes for Supreme Court Justices Sotomayor and Kagan. In light of this precedent, it is likely that the few Senate Republicans who were unwilling to obstruct these two nominees will see the Tea Party in their rear view mirror during the next confirmation fight, and will fear being Lugared. If Senate Democrats do not take their next opportunity to pass filibuster reform, the consequence could be a complete inability to fill Supreme Court vacancies.