Filibuster reform would have saved Hagel
In light of the filibuster of Chuck Hagel, Senate rules reform advocates are having a bit of an “I told you so" moment, lamenting the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders agreed to a weak filibuster tweak last month instead of one of the more robust plans reformers had hoped for. In response, it's been noted that those proposals would not have eliminated the filibuster or even the 60 vote threshold needed to break one.
But that doesn't mean they wouldn't have helped Hagel. In fact, if Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley’s plan had been in effect yesterday afternoon when the Senate voted on cloture, the vote would have succeeded and Hagel would be one step closer to confirmation.
Here’s why: While Merkley’s “talking filibuster” idea got the most attention, one plan the reformers would flip the burden for preserving a filibuster from the majority to the minority. Right now, the majority (Democrats) need to assemble 60 votes to break a filibuster, regardless of how many Republicans vote against cloture -- anything less than that means the vote dies. So, under yesterday's 58-40 vote, Democrats couldn't move the vote forward.