Can they filibuster a conference committee report?

I was under the impression (don’t know where I got it) that once the house-senate conference settles on a final bill, the senate (as well as the house) can only vote up or down and no filibuster is possible. But a latter in today’s NY Times suggests that a new filibuster would be possible on the conference committee report. Is this correct?

While I am on the subject of filibusters, I have another question. I was under the impression that, as the Senate replaces only 1/3 of its members at a time, it is continuing body and therefore never gets to vote on its rules, while the House reorganizes every two years and has to readopt its rules (or change them). But Paul Krugman suggested in his column yesterday that on the first day of a new congress, the Senate also has to readopt its rules and can change them. Presumably since there is no rule in effect at that point that allows unlimited debate (nor is unlimited debate a feature in any other deliberative body in the world that I am aware of), a change in the rules could not be filibustered, but the president of the Senate (that is the VP) could simply call for a vote. I would be interested in knowing if this is true.

Incidentally, I recall when cloture required a 2/3 majority and was changed to 3/5 only after a long filibuster was ended. I don’t recall when that happened exactly, but it was probably in the 50s.

Yes, a conference report can be filibustered. However, the motion to call up a conference report is non-debatable and that motion cannot be filibustered. I am not sure, however, whether the title and the enacting clause of a conference report can be filibustered – they can be on a bill, meaning that a bill can be filibustered so that it requires in a worst-case scenario three cloture votes (not counting any cloture motions to call up the bill or to end debate on any amendments or motions pertaining to the bill). My inclination is that only one cloture vote is needed to move to a final vote on a conference report, but I’m only 85% sure about that.

Also, a rule change in the Senate is subject to filibuster, and it takes a 2/3rds vote to adopt cloture, so that’s just not feasible. The idea that the Senate is suddenly going to toss out 200 plus years of precedent in order to re-adopt rules at the beginning of each Congress is simply a non-starter. In any case, re-adopting the Senate rules in order to assist in passage of the health care bill doesn’t make sense, as the new Congress will convene in January 2011, and all bills that were introduced or were being debated when Congress adjourns sine die in December 2010 are instantly dead upon adjournment of the Congress.

And the cloture rule was changed in 1975 to allow the current 3/5ths majority to adopt cloture.

It’s not in order to ease passage of the health care bill. It’s in order to get the Senate out of the procedural rat hole they’ve been in since the minority party decided filibustering everything is a good way to operate, and certain centrist members of the majority party decided that they’ll only vote for cloture on measures they plan to vote yes on. (Both of which weren’t at all the case before the 110th Congress.) The intransigence of the minority on the HC bill is just what’s illustrated this fucked up situation most powerfully.


There is no doubt of the ability of a determined Senate majority to force through rule changes by majority vote. This has been repeatedly upheld by Vice Presidents and Senate majorities of opposite parties. There are various mechanisms by which this can take place, many of which do not need to take place at the very beginning of a new Congress. The underlying rationale for such action is that supermajority requirements established by an earlier Senate cannot trump the Constitutional power of each House of Congress to determine its own rules.

Yes, the nuclear option, later renamed the constitutional option.

Seeing as how 40-odd Democratic senators were in office not so long ago when they opposed the nuclear option, I’m guessing that they have some sensitivity to stripping minority rights away in this method.

If there is going to be reform of the cloture rules, my money would be on the proposal Krugman talked about to lower the threshold for cloture on each sucessive vote (60 the first vote, 59 the next, etc). But really, I think that proposal will just slow things down even more.