Senate Democrats and Republicans worked out a compromise over parliamentary tactics that slow down legislation. I can’t believe it, but the 112th Congress is being bipartisan. Granted it isn’t about major reforms, and they might be small concessions. It is something to be hopeful about though. While they didn’t take a strong move to reform the filibuster as some Senator had hoped, they did agree to eliminate the practice of “secret holds.” “Secret holds” allowed any Senator to prevent a vote on a presidential appointee for any reason they saw fit. They also got to do it anonymously. No more said the Senate leadership and we can be happy for that. Along with eliminating holds, they’ve decided to reduce the number of presidential appointments that require Senate approval by 1/3. That’s a substantial step to address a confirmation process that sometimes takes months or years.
What will be most interesting to watch is the “hand-shake agreement” between Sen. Reid and Sen. McConnell, in which they both agreed to use tactics that limit the other. Sen. Reid promised to rarely limit the ability to offer amendments. Sen McConnell said he would rarely require unneccessary procedural votes.
This is by all accounts a small victory for bipartisanship, but it is a victory. As long as the Senate lives up to its promises, the next two years might just signal a change in Washington. As we all know, however, promises are easy. Talk is cheap. Living up to promises has not been Washington’s forte. Let’s hope this is a change.