(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Time is getting short to reform the filibuster rule of the Senate. The debate and vote to reform will take place January 22, the day after Pres. Obama’s inauguration for his second term and before hearing on the president’s nominees for important cabinet vacancies.
by Sabrina Siddiqui, Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — With just a week left to influence the looming debate over filibuster reform, Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with the progressive Daily Kos community, launched a petition on Monday to drum up support for a proposal that would eliminate the silent filibuster.
The hope is to maintain pressure for reform that would include the talking filibuster. Merkley, Udall and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have been pushing one such approach, which would still allow the minority to filibuster legislation but would require members to do so by actually standing and speaking on the floor. The Merkley-Udall-Harkin plan also seeks to streamline conference committee assignments and nominations, and eliminate the motion to proceed — a motion typically offered by the majority leader to bring up a bill or other measure for consideration.
Their proposal is competing with a scaled-back bipartisan plan introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and backed by six other senators. In a statement accompanying the petition, Merkley argues that “other proposals out there don’t go far enough, and won’t change the culture of obstruction that paralyzes the Senate.”
“Without a talking filibuster, obstructionist Senators will still be able to silently stall any piece of legislation they want without any accountability,” he writes.>
Filibuster reform will be first thing on the docket when the U.S. Senate convenes on Jan. 22.
Under the U.S. Constitution, a majority of each house have the power to change its rules on the first day of the legislative session by a simple majority vote. The Senate convened the first session of the 113th Congress on Jan. 3 – and the three Democratic senators introduced SR 4. Here’s what it would do:
Clear the path to debate – Those objecting to legislation would only have one opportunity to filibuster legislation. Specifically, the ability to bring up a bill for simple debate (the motion to proceed) would not be subjected to a filibuster.
Restore the “talking filibuster” – Those wishing to filibuster legislation must actually hold the floor and be required to actually debate the legislation. It would end “silent” filibusters where one senator quietly objects and is not required to take the Senate floor.
Put filibuster supporters on record – 41 senators would have to affirmatively vote to continue debate, rather than forcing 60 senators to vote to end debate.
Expedite nominations – The process for approving nominations would be streamlined, shortening the amount of time required for debate once a nomination is brought to the Senate floor.
Historically, the filibuster was intended to protect the minority party’s interests on extraordinary issues, and it was rarely invoked. But in today’s contentious political climate the filibuster has been used in record numbers (nearly 400 times in the 112th Congress) to block votes and debate, and the requirement for 60 votes to end a filibuster has proved virtually insurmountable. For example, much of the legislation organized labor has fought for to restore collective bargaining rights and to create jobs – from the Employee Free Choice Act, to the Bring Jobs Home Act, the American Jobs Act, and many more – never received a Senate floor vote because of the filibuster threat, even though the legislation had majority support from senators.
For these reasons, SR 4 is endorsed by the AFL-CIO and some 50 progressive groups – in a coalition called Fix the Senate Now.
As our friend, Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog says:
This is my reminder – you can help hold that group together. We need strong filibuster reform, not a weaker version. Call your senator if you believe in this (click to find the phone number).
In addition, call these senators – they are the Democrats flirting with “well, I don’t really know” when the last public list of supporters was announced:
- Baucus Max MT D (202) 224-2651
- Boxer Barbara CA D (202) 224-3553
- Feinstein Dianne CA D (202) 224-3841
- Heitkamp Heidi ND D (202) 224-2043
- Hirono Mazie HI D (202) 224-6361
- Leahy Patrick VT D (202) 224-4242
- Reed Jack RI D (202) 224-4642
As of last report, these are the Democratic waverers (and shame on them). Please make the calls, now and daily (if you can) until January 22.