Obama backs Reid on filibuster reform

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks at a news conference discussing the election results on Capitol Hill on November 7, 2012 in Washington, DC.
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's effort to reform the filibuster received an assist today from the White House, which released a statement indicating that President Obama stands squarely behind Reid's effort.

"The President has said many times that the American people are demanding action," read the statement from White House Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer. "They want to see progress, not partisan delay games. That hasn't changed, and the President supports Majority Leader Reid's efforts to reform the filibuster process."

The filibuster is a Senate procedural rule that allows a single senator to indefinitely uphold a debate unless there are 60 senators who want to stop him. Filibusters are stopped with a cloture vote, which has become increasingly common.

Reid's proposed reforms would not do away with the filibuster entirely - rather, he would eliminate the use of the filibuster on the vote to formally begin consideration of legislation and require filibustering senators to actually hold the chamber in audience rather than just threatening to do so, as is the case today.

In 2005 -- when Republicans, not Democrats, controlled the Senate -- the parties were on the opposite side of the debate.

"Everyone in this chamber knows if the majority chooses to end the filibuster... the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse," then-Sen. Obama said on the Senate floor in 2005.

Meanwhile, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the Washington Post points out, wanted to eliminate the ability to filibuster judicial nominees in 2005. "Even if one strongly disagrees with a nomination, the proper course of action is not to obstruct a potential judge through the filibuster but to vote against him or her," he said at the time.