Greg Sargent worries, along with Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, that Senate Democrats will fail to secure the 67 votes needed to reform the filibuster without invoking the constitutional option.
In an interview with me, Senator Jeff Merkley, one of the leaders of the reform effort, was surprisingly blunt about the risk that the proposed filibuster changes could be watered down. He predicted that without more mobilization and pressure from outside, reform could “fizzle.”
“Filibuster reform has more momentum than it has had in a generation,” Merkley said. “But it’s not a sure thing, because there are great concerns over changing the rules in an institution that rarely changes its rules. We have a few short weeks. Unless folks mobilize outside of this building and drive a message home, then reform of the filibuster may fizzle.”
The problem is not that filibuster reform won’t happen — if it came down to it, Dems would likely be able to mobilize 51 votes to pass reforms via a simple majority. Rather, the problem is that Democratic reluctance to go for this “constitutional option” is causing them to lean more towards negotiating a deal with Republicans — enabling it to pass without the constitutional option — that risks diluting reform. In other words, even if Dems can pass reform via simple majority, enough Dems may end up preferring instead to reach a deal with Republicans on a less comprehensive reform package.