The Senate is in a crisis situation, unable to accomplish much, due to the ridiculous filibuster issue, which has totally derailed action or voting on so many matters in the past few years.
The Republican minority has been able, just by threatening a filibuster, to block approval of judicial and executive nominations, and prevent serious discussion and voting on crucial matters. The filibuster, however, does not presently require that any Senator or Senators take the floor and talk for hours and hours, as Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina did in 1957, when he set a record of 25 hours for a personal filibuster, or having an 83 day group filibuster against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, before finally cloture was voted, and the filibuster was overcome.
So there have been proposals to modify the present requirement that 60 votes are needed to allow movement forward on any Senate issue.
Some want a simple 51 vote majority, similar to the 218 simple vote majority needed in the House of Representatives, while others want a 55 vote majority needed to move forward.
And others suggest something even less of a controversy: Bills for debate could not be filibustered, and filibusters could not be used to prevent formal negotiations with the House on Senate passed legislation, what is called the formation of a conference committee, which used to be common, and now is very rare.
Also, a Senator would have to be on the floor to mount a filibuster, or else, a vote on the bill would proceed. So the old filibuster rule, best represented by the Thurmond example, would require a commitment by one or a group of Senators to give the effort by personal sacrifices, speaking constantly on the floor of the Senate, to stop the bill from moving forward.
Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico have proposed these reasonable changes, and Joe Biden, as presiding officer, could move such changes forward, but there are seven Democrats, out of the 55 in the new Senate, who seem to be opposed.
These are Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California, Carl Levin of Michigan, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Max Baucus of Montana, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. Notice that these Senators are all senior and older, longer serving members, with the shortest amount of service being Pryor, in the Senate since 2003.
This failure to understand how important reform is makes one watching this legislative mess feel very frustrated, and leaves one with the feeling that Senate reform will likely fail, and further undermine respect for our Congress and its ability to get things done!