Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), a leading champion of weakening the filibuster, is circulating a memo to colleagues fleshing out how his reform package would work.
It would work like this. If the Senate held a cloture vote to end debate, and a majority of senators voted to end debate, but not 60, the Senate would enter a period of “extended debate.” In short, once the Senate has voted for additional debate, senators who feel that additional debate is necessary would need to make sure that at least one senator is on the floor presenting his or her arguments.
If, at any time during the period of extended debate, no senator were present to speak to the bill, then the presiding officer of the Senate would rule that the period of extended debate is over. The Majority Leader would then schedule a simple majority cloture vote on the bill.
If the simple majority cloture vote were to pass – and in most cases it would since the previous cloture vote already received a simple majority – the normal period of 30 hours of post-cloture debate would proceed. This post-cloture period would be exactly the same as it is now (unless changed by a separate change in a rule).
The senator is ratcheting up pressure on his colleagues to get behind the plan.