This is a shockingly bad report from Wall Street Journal news reporter Corey Boles:
If a few of Senate Democrats had their way, Jimmy Stewart’s character in the classic film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” would have had a harder time blocking a Senate vote.
In the 1939 movie, a Senate freshman spent all night talking in a classic filibuster, the decades-old right of any lawmaker to block legislation on the Senate floor.
But a group of Democrats believes Republicans have abused the practice. On Wednesday, they began debate on an effort to try to stamp out the filibuster.
Aides to Senate Democratic leaders say the effort won’t likely lead to a vote on such a rule change. But it is the first serious debate in years on the nuts-and-bolts of Senate operations.
The rule changes were introduced by Senate Democrats Tom Udall of New Mexico and Jeff Merkley of Oregon – both in their first terms — and veteran Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa.
The plan would allow debate to begin on any measure with a simple 51-vote majority, rather than the 60-vote supermajority the minority party can currently insist upon. It would prevent senators from putting secret “holds” on nominations or legislation, and guarantee the minority party the right to introduce amendments to legislation on the floor of the Senate.
Under the rules, lawmakers who want to prevent a vote on final passage of legislation would be forced to take the floor of the Senate to defend their stance – and would have to remain there as long as the bill was being debated.
This echoes the hilariously incorrect attack made by Lamar Alexander the other day. It's not just wrong, it's a complete inversion of the truth.
The filibuster used to require endless debate. Under the current rules, though, the minority can block even the beginning of a debate. Filibuster proponents point to Jimmy Stewart and the history of the filibuster to paint their position as a defense of unlimited debate when they're really just defending a supermajority requirement. Because current rules allow the minority to block the start of a debate, Stewart-style filibusters with actual speeches don't happen.
What the Democrats propose to do is not to limit debate, or even to curtail the supermajority requirement. It's merely to force the minority party to actually debate. The minority would not be able to block a bill from being debated on the floor. If they wanted to require a supermajority to pass it, they would have to actually debate it.
In other words, Boles (and the Republicans) claim that Mr. Smith Goes To Washington-style filibusters currently exist and the reforms would stop them. In reality, such filibusters do not currently exist and the reform bill would create them.