While they still hold a simple majority, Democrats are eagerly anticipating a vote on a proposal to curtail filibusters and other methods of slowing Senate proceedings -- a move that they plan to press forward with Wednesday when Congress reconvenes in Washington.
"The Senate today is dysfunctional," Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told the Wall Street Journal. "You just can't run a 21st century superpower using 19th century rules." Harkin wants to set up a series of votes when a filibuster is launched, with the final one requiring just 51 votes to end debate.
Joining Harkin in calling for changes in the Senate's rules are Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. Senate leaders predict that such changes may be enacted this week. Advocates for change, including Udall and Merkley, are not proposing to abolish the filibuster. Instead, they plan to propose more limited means, such as preventing senators from filibustering a motion to begin debating a bill.
At least one Republican has signaled he may join Democrats in pushing for the rules changes. Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has signaled support for disallowing individual senators from anonymously putting "holds" on legislation.
In addition, Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., says he supports new limits on filibusters that would require individual senators to be present on the floor if they intend to object. “I am intending on offering my constitutional option on the first day,” Udall told the New York Times.
In no bipartisan agreement can be reached, supporters of rule changes say they will force a debate, a move senators from both parties warn could permanently damage bipartisan relations in the Senate.
“One of our main focuses is making people stand up and explain to the American people why they are filibustering,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a fellow supporter of rule changes. Klobuchar claims that he and others would prefer to work with Republicans to reach a bipartisan agreement but would not shy away from a fight.
On Monday, Sen. Merkley took to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show to plug the Democrats' plans. Filling in for Maddow was a noticeably excited (though completely unbiased, obviously) Chris Hayes: