December 29, 2012 in Nation/World

Bipartisan senators back filibuster limits

Proposal allows amendments; curbs federal judgeship holds
Alan Fram Associated Press
 
Senate approves

Sandy aid bill

WASHINGTON – The Senate on Friday approved a $60.4 billion emergency spending aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy that had been backed by Senate Democrats.

Democrats had to turn back Republican efforts to cut programs such as $150 million in fisheries aid that Republican lawmakers said was unrelated to the storm that hammered the East Coast late in October. The measure cleared the Senate on a 62-32 vote, with 12 Republicans supporting the bill.

The bill faces uncertain prospects in the House, where GOP leaders appear reluctant to move quickly on a big spending bill in the final days of a lame duck session.

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of senators proposed Friday to clamp modest limits on filibusters, hoping to head off a bitter partisan fight over the issue when the new Congress convenes next week and approves its rules.

Led by Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., the group proposed limiting the use of filibusters, the procedural delays minority parties often use to grind the Senate’s work to a halt. The proposal would also thwart majority parties from using a counter-tactic: blocking the minority from offering amendments.

Senate Democrats and Republicans, meeting separately Friday, were each given details of the proposal. Senators and aides said no final decisions were made about what rules the Senate would consider next week, a choice that largely rests in the hands of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Complaining that Republicans filibuster too frequently, Reid has threatened to impose even stricter filibuster limits with a simple majority vote – in effect ramming them through over GOP objections. That could well precipitate retaliatory procedural delays and other steps from Republicans, and poison already frayed partisan relations, even as the two parties face months of complex disputes over taxes, spending, the economy and other issues.

Republicans say they filibuster because Reid often blocks them from offering amendments.

Filibusters require the votes of 60 of the 100 senators to halt. Democrats will have a 55-45 majority in the Senate next year.

The proposal by Levin and McCain would let the majority leader prevent filibusters when the Senate starts debating legislation. It would also reduce the number of filibusters when the Senate is ready to start trying to write compromise legislation with the House.

The group’s proposal would also ensure that each party is allowed two amendments to each bill. And it would reduce the number of federal judgeships subject to filibusters, although not for top judges.

“All of us are totally frustrated with this gridlock,” McCain told reporters.

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