WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 10, 2013) — Momentum continues to build for changing U.S. Senate rules to stop the abuse of the filibuster, an arcane rule that allows individual senators and the minority party to control the debate and what proposed legislation receives a vote. 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 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.
That’s why the AFL-CIO has joined some 50 progressive groups in an effort — called Fix the Senate Now — to reform the U.S. Senate’s filibuster rules through SR 4, introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). 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 — Instead of the burden required to break a filibuster being on the majority to deliver 60 votes, those objecting to the legislation and wishing to filibuster must produce 41 votes to sustain a filibuster.
- Expedite nominations — The process for approving nominations should be streamlined, including shortening the amount of time required for debate once a nomination is brought to the Senate floor.
Who’s opposing the legislation? The lobbyists who profit from the Senate dysfunction. The Nation reports about one lobbyist whose consulting firm used its influence with specific U.S. Senators to literally sell its clients filibusters, anonymous holds and the other forms of Senate obstruction.
For more information, download a S.R. 4 fact sheet.