Fix the Senate Now

ICYMI: Americans Back Impending Reforms to U.S. Senate Rules

Washington, DC – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is working to advance a substantive package of Senate rules reforms and is prepared to use the constitutional option to enact reform, if necessary. As the Senate rules reform battle moves toward resolution next week, it is clear that key observers and the public alike want Senator Reid’s efforts to lead to substantial reform of the Senate. Among the key developments this week:

Outside Observers Agree Senate Needs Fixing: Experts, commentators, scholars, and coalition leaders from Fix the Senate Now are making the case that we need to seize the opportunity to reform the Senate:

  •         Tom Brokaw on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC: “[T]here is a new will to take on some of the obstacles of getting anything done in the U.S. Senate and beginning with the filibuster rules, about how they change that. The minority can't hold a majority hostage every time something comes to the floor.”
  •         Arkansas Democrat-Gazette op-ed by law professor Joshua Silverstein: “The modern overuse of the filibuster has nearly ground the Senate to a halt. The chamber spends so much time dealing with obstruction that it has little time left over to actually debate legislative issues or move forward on qualified judicial nominees. Currently, the Senate is considering reforms to limit abuse of the filibuster, and I encourage the support of both of our senators.”
  •         CWA President Larry Cohen interview on “Moyers and Company”: “Cohen is a leader of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of nearly 50 progressive organizations campaigning hard to change the filibuster rules -- not to deny a minority the right to be heard, but to hold Senators accountable by bringing back the requirement that they show up in person and talk in plain sight, so we can know who’s holding democracy hostage. But time is not on their side. Unless the Senate reforms the filibuster on Tuesday, the minority wrecking crew remains in charge for the next two years.”
  •         Diana Kasdan, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, on the “Thom Hartman Show”:““We are really hopeful that what we’re going to see is the Merkley proposal or very close to it, and that has the talking filibuster. And I have to say, there is such public support for that. There is support in the Senate itself among many veteran and new Senators, but today there were nearly a million signed petitions delivered to senators saying that Americans want this kind of reform.”

Campaign Activities Engage the Public’s Voice on Behalf of Senate Reform: The Fix the Senate Now campaign ramped-up campaign activities this week, including a Day of Action in support of reform.  Activities included:

  • Fix the Senate Now delivered close to one million petition signatures to 16 Senate offices as part of the Day of Action.  This included petitions with more than half a million signatures to Senate Majority Leader Reid demonstrating that the public has his back on real Senate reform.  
  • The coalition has generated more than 75,000 phone contacts to Senate offices from Americans demanding real rules reform – numbers likely to grow in the wake of emails like this one  sent yesterday by 36 organizations encouraging members to call their senators. 
  • A $300,000 paid media campaign launched by the Communications Workers of America (CWA)  on behalf of Senate rules reform, including this television ad, “The U.S. Senate is Broken – But We Can Fix It.” Already seen on during The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, the ads also are scheduled to run during this Sunday’s morning network news broadcasts.
  • Earlier this week, key Senate reform champions Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and the Daily Kos community on a petition in favor of real Senate reform.
  • CWA also launched a petition drive via “takeover” advertising on the Huffington Post Politics site, gathering signatures and comments from Americans calling for the end of the silent filibuster.  Since its launch, the effort has generated signatures and comments from over 8,000 Americans.  The following are comments from petition signers across the country:
  • Doristene, AR: “If they feel that the issue is that important, they should stand before the American people and explain why.”
  • Paul, CA: “Make the Senate productive again; stop playing games.”
  • Mary, DE: “We need more transparency. The silent filibuster makes it difficult to see who or what group is not allowing things to go to a vote.”
  • Marcus, MT: “If [they] need to stop a bill is that great, a Senator should have to get up and tells us why, with enough conviction to stay there and keep talking.”
  • Richard, NV: “The silent filibuster makes it too easy to obstruct a bill while hiding the obstructor. If a Senator has a reason to stop a bill from passing, let him state his reasons and not hide his identity.”
  • Caroline, NY: “People deserve to know who is responsible for a filibuster and their reason/explanation for filibuster.”
  • Kevin, NY: “The silent filibuster and the anonymous hold are both badly-abused tactics that have outlived their purpose and now serve only to impede the work of the Senate. I urge the elimination of both.”
  • Mark, NY: Senators should have the courage to stand up there and express their opinion rather than hide behind a procedural shield.”
  • Thomas, RI:  “Plain and simple it is undemocratic, never mind that it undermines the work of the country to be able to move forward.”

Fix the Senate Now Presence Over Inaugural Weekend: The Fix the Senate Now coalition also will make its presence felt during inaugural weekend. Efforts include Fix the Senate Now stickers being deployed at inaugural events and online advertising targeted at major inaugural hotels. Users accessing mobile applications while attending inaugural events will also see the ads.  See examples and further details here.

 

Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information

 

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American People to U.S. Senate: Move Forward on Real Rules Reform

Coalition’s Day of Action Makes Presence Felt on Hill & in Key States

Washington, DC – As the time for a vote on U.S. Senate rules reform draws closer, the Fix the Senate Now coalition and hundreds of thousands of Americans are making their voices heard in support of real Senate rules reform, such as the S. Res. 4 package of reforms introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM). 

Writing in the Washington Post, Jonathan Bernstein notes that the ultimate outcome of the Senate reform effort will be largely dependent on whether Senators hear from outside organizations and the public in support of reform.  Through today’s Day of Action from the Fix the Senate Now coalition and allied organizations, Americans are sending a loud, clear message:  

  • Nearly One Million Petition Signatures Supporting Real Reform Delivered to Senate Offices: Today, the coalition will deliver close to one million petition signatures to 16 Senate offices. Leading coalition organizations such as the AFL-CIO, Alliance for Justice, Common Cause, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Credo, Daily Kos, Greenpeace, Rebuild the Dream, UAW, and Working America are delivering CDs to Senators burned with signatures from their home states .  They’re also delivering a national disc featuring more than 500,000 signatures to the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), urging support for S. Res. 4.
  • Email & Phone Campaign into Overdrive: 36 organizations are sending out emails like this one  today encouraging phone calls to the Senate in support of substantial rules reform. Already, Senate offices have received more than 75,000 phone contacts from Americans demanding real rules reform.
  • Expanded In-State Visibility, Including Petition Deliveries in Eight States: Common Cause, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Credo, and Progress Maryland are among the organizations delivering petitions to ten key Senators, filled with signatures from their home states Thirteen  California organizations released a new letter to California Senators Boxer and Feinstein urging support for S. Res. 4. More than 60 New York organizations signed onto and released a letter urging Senator Chuck Schumer to help shepherd through real Senate reform, such as S. Res. 4.  Other states seeing petition drives and deliveries include Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, and Ohio.
  • HuffPost Politics “Takeover” and Signature Drive: CWA also announced a “takeover” of the Huffington Post Politics section today, with ads that ask users to support efforts to “reduce global warming” or “create good jobs now” or “pass real immigration reform.” When the user tries to access the “click here” button to take action, it moves around, making it impossible to access. Eventually, the screen changes to, “Sorry, the silent filibuster makes it impossible to move forward” and then provides a link to a real petition around ending the silent filibuster and supporting rules reform.  Since its launch overnight, the effort has generated over 3,250 signatures.

Today’s actions are in addition to the more than $300,000 paid media campaign launched by CWA  on behalf of Senate rules reform, which includes this  ad, “The U.S. Senate is Broken – But We Can Fix It,” to run during this Sunday’s morning network news broadcasts and on cable throughout this week.

 Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information

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Campaign Escalates in Support of Real Senate Reform, Not Watered Down Alternatives

Washington, DC – As some media outlets report that the Senate is possibly headed for only “modest” Senate rules changes, leading reformers are escalating public efforts in support of more substantial reforms, similar to those strongly supported by the American people.

Legislation on a range of critical issues deserves a full hearing before the American people – not silent obstruction that prevents debate from ever taking place. Meaningful Senate reform, like the proposal championed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) — S. Res 4 — must raise the costs of obstruction in addition to expediting the legislative and confirmation processes. As the Senate rules reform effort moves closer to a likely vote next week, the Fix the Senate Now coalition and key Senators remain steadfast in their support for a real reform package, not watered down alternatives that cement much of the Senate status quo.

  • Reform Champions Escalate Public Campaign for Real Senate Reform: Key Senate champions Merkley and Udall are ramping up their public efforts in support of substantial Senate reforms, alongside organizations involved in the Fix the Senate Now coalition
  • Talking Points Memo, “As Time Runs Short, Filibuster Reformers Escalate Campaign”: “One week before filibuster reform’s do-or-die moment, its two chief proponents are escalating their campaign, enlisting Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and the liberal Daily Kos community to help lead the charge… Merkley and Udall claim the Levin-McCain plan would a step backward for the cause, arguing that the minority could use amendments to poison legislation. ‘Other proposals out there don’t go far enough,’ the petition reads, ‘and won’t change the culture of obstruction that paralyzes the Senate.’”
  • Huffington Post, “Filibuster Reform: Union Launches Advertising Campaign Against Silent Filibuster”: “The Communications Workers of America labor union, a lead group in the Fix the Senate Now coalition, is launching advertising aimed at shaping the final stages of the filibuster reform debate. The effort includes more than $300,000 in advertising, beginning with cable TV ads that will run throughout the week of Jan. 14. The 30-second spot, “The U.S. Senate Is Broken – But We Can Fix It,” calls on the Senate to eliminate the silent filibuster and implement “common sense” rules reforms…The ad will also air during the Jan. 20 Sunday show circuit between morning broadcasts of ABC’s ‘This Week,’ CBS’s ‘Face the Nation,’ and NBC’s ‘Meet the Press.’”

Last week, the Fix the Senate Now coalition released a new sign-on letter from 46 national organizations calling on Senators of both parties to co-sponsor and support S. Res 4; lobbed thousands of phone calls to Senate offices in support of real reform; and launched a new online petition drive, gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of Senate reform.  

  • Senate Needs More than “Modest” Reform: In an interview with Nevada public television last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) offered commentary on the status of rules reform negotiations that some observers assess as endorsing only a “modest” package of Senate reforms.

Rather than a handshake agreement that will likely cement the Senate status quo, we hope that Senator Reid can work to realize substantial and actual Senate rules changes. Senator Reid said in May 2012, “If there were ever a time when Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley were prophetic, it’s tonight.  These two young, fine senators said it was time to change the rules of the Senate, and we didn’t. They were right. The rest of us were wrong — or most of us, anyway. What a shame...If there were anything that ever needed changing in this body, it’s the filibuster rules, because it’s been abused, abused, abused.”

We agree and hope Senators Merkley and Udall are in close consultation with the Senate Majority Leader as Senator Reid puts together the final package of reforms.

 

Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information

 

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Promised Obstruction of Nominees Help Build Support for Senate Rules Reform

Washington, DC – As the U.S. Senate rules reform effort moves closer to the vote expected the week of January 22nd, threats to block the nominations of President Obama’s executive branch nominees are underscoring the need for substantial Senate rules reform.  In combination with escalated campaign efforts from the Fix the Senate Now coalition and the continued advocacy of Senate reform champions like Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), the promised obstruction may have the unintended consequence of making the case for rules reforms like the Merkley/Udall S. Res. 4 proposal. Among this week’s key developments:

  • GOP Threat to Obstruct Nominations Makes Case for Senate Rules Reform: Senator Jeff Sessions and other Senate Republicans have pledged to block Obama’s executive nomination to the U.S. Treasury, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, after similar threats about other potential and named executive branch nominees. In response, a range of opinion leaders has made the argument that this may actually benefit the Senate rules and filibuster reform effort.
  • In the Washington Post, Jonathan Bernstein highlighted that recent obstructionist tactics are only making further the case for filibuster reform, “All this does build the case for Senate reform. As I’ve been saying, there’s just no good reason not to change the rules to have simple majority approval of executive branch nominees.” 
  • In a Slate article by Dave Weigel, Senator Jeff Merkley argued that the threats to filibuster executive branch nominations underscores the need for substantial rules reform: “It really does highlight how the intentional paralysis of the Senate, through the use of a filibuster as a party tool, has gotten out of hand…If we can turn back the clock to the Susan Rice nomination, a lot people said: ‘Oh, that's just maneuvering by Republicans to get John Kerry instead and give Scott Brown a chance to come back here.’ With Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, it becomes so much more apparent that this wasn't a strategy aimed at one Senate seat.”  Weigel notes, “Sessions’ outrage was manna to an unexpected group of people: Democrats. For months, a group of freshman Democratic senators have been trying to nail down 51 votes to reform the filibuster. On Jan. 22, when the Senate votes on this congressional session’s rulebook, they’ll need to keep that group together. Every time a Republican threatens an Obama nominee, their job gets easier.”
  • Senate Champions and Fix the Senate Now Coalition Escalate Case for Real Senate Reforms:  Earlier this week, Senators Jeff Merkley (OR), Tom Udall (NM) and Tom Harkin (IA) introduced S. Res. 4 as a package of Senate rules reforms. The proposal would help cut down on unprecedented Senate obstruction and return the Senate to its deliberative traditions by establishing a “talking filibuster;” eliminating the filibuster on motions to proceed and motions to establish a conference committee; and streamlining the nominations process by reducing post-cloture time on nominations.  The Fix the Senate Now coalition is working to build public momentum behind S. Res. 4, with the following actions this week in support of real reform:
  • Coalition members nationwide, representing 18 organizations, made thousands of phone calls to their Senators urging them to support the S. Res 4 reform proposal; and
  • The coalition launched a new online petition drive, gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures in support of Senate reform.  

 

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More Voices Line Up Behind Talking Filibuster & Real Senate Reform

Washington DC – Momentum continues to build on behalf of significant U.S. Senate rules reform. As Senate rules negotiations between U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) move forward, opinion leaders and state editorial boards continue to call for the “talking filibuster” and the substantial package of reforms proposed by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM). 

  • James P. Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, in the Detroit News: “The modern filibuster makes it far too easy for a tyrannical minority to strangle the democratic process…The Levin-McCain proposal still would allow the "silent" filibuster, where one senator quietly objects and doesn't have to take the Senate floor…That's why the Teamsters Union is supporting the proposal by Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Tom Udall of New Mexico.” 
  • San Jose Mercury News Editorial: “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apparently is close to having majority support for serious changes in rules that make it too easy for the minority party, now the Republicans, to paralyze the Senate. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer are not yet committed to supporting any specific plan. By the time the Senate reconvenes this month, both should be backing Reid on sensible rules that foster rather than block debate on matters of importance to Americans….The key is reviving the talking filibuster. If senators want to block a vote, they should have to stand up and talk for hours, around the clock, to delay it -- a threshold that makes the filibuster something to use sparingly for the most important or heartfelt issues, as it was for most of the nation's history.”
  • Santa Fe New Mexican Editorial: “What must go by the wayside is the ability of any senator to stall appointments, or hold up necessary legislation, just because….Seek true reform, allowing the filibuster to remain only if senators will stand up and speak for their positions out loud where all can see. If need be, institute the reform with 51 votes. Otherwise, the Senate will not be able to conduct the essential business of the country — again.” 
  • Battlecreek Enquirer (MI) Editorial: “The filibuster as it is used today renders the Senate majority virtually powerless to pass, or even debate, legislation. A procedure meant to temper the power of the majority has instead created a tyrannical minority whose prime objective is to ensure that nothing is accomplished….A number of reforms are on the table, among them a provision that would require lawmakers who filibuster to actually hold the floor and debate, making it more difficult for senators to hold up business…It’s time to end this abuse and the damage that it inflicts on our democracy.”
  • Frank Knapp, Jr. of American Sustainable Business Council Action Fund, in The Hill: “However, there is one self-inflicted structural problem in the U.S. Senate that magnifies both these electorate and policy decisions — the filibuster… Today’s Senate filibuster rules must be changed. Instead of creating a more toxic atmosphere in the Senate, a “talking filibuster” might encourage more bi-partisan cooperation on bills and improve the productivity of the chamber. Such a rules change will create a more functioning and efficient Senate that will return it to its rightful position of influence in the legislative process.”
  • Jonathan Backer of the Brennan Center for Justice, in The Hill: “Although Udall and Merkley are the public faces of filibuster reform this year, and while many of the staunchest defenders of the status quo have served long tenures, long-serving members are also on the frontlines advocating reform….There are plenty of good reasons for considered debate over how to ensure deliberative but functional democracy. But filibuster reform enjoys the support of both Senate veterans, who have witnessed the Senate’s precipitous drop in productivity, as well as frustrated new members. Skeptical senators cannot simply dismiss reform as the preoccupation of inexperienced members. Rather, they should join with their colleagues in a meaningful conversation about how to restore the Senate as a chamber where substantive decision-making can once again occur.”  

For more information visit www.fixthesenatenow.org

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Substantial U.S. Senate Rules Reform Effort Moves Forward

Washington, DC – As the 113th Congress begins, momentum continues to build on behalf of substantial rules reform in the U.S. Senate, including the “talking filibuster.” Among the major developments:

  • Fix the Senate Now Confident that Sen. Reid & Democrats Will Stand Firm on Real Reform: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will postpone a vote on U.S. Senate rules reform until later in January, providing Senator Reid several weeks to negotiate with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on a bi-partisan package of rules reforms. Notably, as a Senate Democratic leadership aide told Huffington Post, “While these negotiations take place, Senator Reid will preserve the option to make rule changes with a simple majority vote.” With several additional weeks to demonstrate the broad popularity of substantial Senate rules reform, the Fix the Senate Now coalition expects the Senate to coalesce around a substantial package of reforms, as Senator Reid has called for, with the knowledge that a simple majority vote will be sufficient to enact reforms, if necessary.
  • Senate Reform Champions Introduce Package of Needed Reforms: Rules reform champions Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Tom Udall (D-NM) yesterday introduced S. Res 4 – a substantial package of Senate reforms that mirrors the reforms supported by the Fix the Senate Now coalition. As multiple news outlets report, the Democratic caucus has 51 votes to enact such a substantial rules reform package, should Reid and McConnell fail to reach a bi-partisan agreement. Of note, and as we explain in detail here, an alternative proposal from Senators Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) is a recipe for continued Senate gridlock.
  • Former Republican and Democratic Senators Call for Talking Filibuster & Letting the “Senate Be the Senate Again”: A new Roll Call op-ed by former Senators David L. Boren (D-OK) and former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) calls for substantial Senate reforms, including, “Those who want to block a bill should be required to hold the floor with a talking filibuster. Our elections are premised on accountability, and citizens deserve to know which senator is holding up the process and why that senator is doing so, even if it is within a senator’s right under the rules to speak at length about any particular piece of legislation.”  The retired Senators note, “It’s plain that the present state of affairs is untenable to the American people, and confounding to many of us who served in the chamber for so many years. Let us turn away from the brinkmanship of abused legislative procedures and return with vigor to spirited debates over policy and substance. Let the Senate be the Senate again.”
  • Support Builds for Talking Filibuster: A key provision of the Merkley/Udall package of reforms is the “talking filibuster” – the provision that would add needed accountability and deliberation to the Senate. The Hill reports, “Most of the new class of Senate Democratic freshmen say filibuster reform should require senators to actually hold the floor and debate if they want to block legislation.” As Senator Merkley explained to NBC Political Director Chuck Todd on MSBNC today, “there's a lot of momentum. There is going to be a change… And unless the Republicans come to the table and say, yes, we understand, if we vote for more debate, we've got to at least have one person on the floor, making the case, then I don't think that a deal should be struck in that fashion.” 
  • Kentucky Media Highlights Report on McConnell Obstruction & Campaign Donations: As Pure Politics - Channel 2 in Louisville describes, “A campaign finance group said Thursday that Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell has seen a windfall of campaign contributions from industries that benefited from McConnell’s filibusters in the Senate. The Public Campaign Action Fund — a nonprofit group that backs stronger campaign finance regulation — released a report highlighting eight instances from McConnell’s political career in which a vote or a blocked vote coincided with an influx of campaign cash.”

 National & State Editorials/Columns Highlight Need for Real Senate Reforms, Not Weak Alternatives:

    • New Yorker commentary by George Packer: “These Catos see themselves as steady hands trying to keep the hallowed old institution from being changed out of recognition by young barbarians like Merkley, Warren, and Tom Udall. But the changes have already happened, happen every day, and have come close to destroying the Senate. The barbarians are the ones who want to restore the institution to health. In the next few days, we’ll find out whether the U.S. Senate has the will to keep itself from going the way of the Roman original.”
    •  New York Times editorial writer David Firestone’s blog post: “The need for reform should be obvious, given the unprecedented level of gridlock. But it still makes long-time Democratic Senators nervous, fearing they will lose an important privilege if their party returns to the minority in the chamber. Last month, a group of senior members, led by Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, and John McCain, Republican of Arizona, came up with a weakened proposal that would block filibusters on motions to proceed but would not require a ‘talking filibuster’… An informal compromise would represent a huge disappointment, as Mr. Reid has reason to know, since the last ‘gentleman’s agreement’ failed.
      • Billings Gazette (MT) editorial: “The Senate has wasted nearly 1,000 hours annually in recent years by delaying debate. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., supported filibuster reform last session. He recently told The Gazette State Bureau that he is supporting a rule change to require filibustering senators to talk continuously on the floor of the Senate to block a bill and to force an actual vote rather than just invoking the 60-vote rule. …Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., also should support these reforms.”
      • Register-Guard (OR) editorial: “It’s time for real filibuster reform, and the Merkley-Udall proposal provides the best hope of real long-term change.”

       


      For more information, or to schedule an interview with Fix the Senate Now leaders, contact Michael Earls at 202-261-2388, media@fixthesenatenow.org

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      Editorial Roundup, January 3, 2013

      As the 113th Congress sets to convene, the call for Senate rules reform by newspapers remains steady. Here’s what they had to say:

      "People around the country are crying out for us to find something to make the system work. Folks are looking at the last two years and saying this is the most dysfunctional Congress in history."

      -- Oregon Live, December 27, 2012

      “Most of the nominees awaiting a Senate floor vote are qualified, non-ideological choices who would easily win confirmation by wide bipartisan margins if McConnell would only allow the process to work as intended.”

      -- Tampa Bay Times, December 29, 2012

      With the filibuster having mutated beyond its original scope, form and intent, members of the U.S. Senate need to get back to basics. Let those who would talk a bill to death get up and start speaking, but no longer should they be able to bring proceedings to a halt any time they feel like it.

      -- Times-Herald Record, January 1, 2013

      “The Republican minority has used the filibuster to block a jobs bill, a farm bill, a highway bill, the Disclosure Act, the Dream Act and dozens of other Democratic initiatives. They perfected the tactic, and anyone who thinks that they would have handed that weapon intact to minority Democrats so that they could hamstring a Republican majority would have to be dreaming.“

      -- Youngstown Vindicator, January 2, 2013

      For links to additional editorials, visit http://fixthesenatenow.org/pages/resources.

      Fix the Senate Now Confident that Sen. Reid & Democrats Will Stand Firm on Real Reform

      Washington, DC – The decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to enter into direct talks with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on curbing the abuse of the filibuster shows the growing strength of the movement for real reform of Senate rules.

      Fifty-one Senate Democrats already support meaningful Senate reforms.  The Fix the Senate Now Coalition is heartened by the continued momentum on behalf of reform and by comments indicating Senator Reid’s willingness to adopt new changes via the constitutional option should negotiations not result in a strong bi-partisan agreement. As a Senate Democratic leadership aide told Huffington Post, “While these negotiations take place, Senator Reid will preserve the option to make rule changes with a simple majority vote.”

      The latest developments illustrate that reform-minded Senators consider the Levin/McCain alternative proposal totally inadequate. As the Fix the Senate Now coalition explains in detail here, this alternative proposal is a recipe for continued Senate gridlock. It lacks transparency and accountability; it allows continued minority veto of all legislative matters; it continues to provide multiple chances to filibuster legislation; and it keeps the obstructionist status quo for many executive branch and judicial nominees.  

      We will be pressing Senator Reid to stand firm in support of real reform, including the “talking filibuster.” Leading Senate reformer Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) called the talking filibuster proposal the “heart of the matter” and stated the provision “is still very much on the table.”

      With two additional weeks to demonstrate the broad popularity of substantial rules reform, we expect the Senate to coalesce around a substantial package of reforms, as Senator Reid has called for in the past, with the knowledge that a simple majority vote will be sufficient to enact reforms, if necessary. Senator Reid said in November 2012: “I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them. We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the Senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done."

      The Fix the Senate Now coalition believes that any true rules reform package must live up to Senator Reid’s vision and include the following concepts:

      •    Eliminate completely the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed and moving legislation to Conference Committees;
      •    Require that those wishing to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster—i.e., mandating “talking filibusters”
      •    Assert that  41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate; and
      •    Streamline the nomination process including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to zero or a maximum of 2 hours.


      For more information, or to schedule an interview with Fix the Senate Now leaders, contact Michael Earls at 202-261-2388, media@fixthesenatenow.org

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      Senate Rules Reform Movement Nearing Defining Moment

      Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate rules reform effort is entering the home stretch, ahead of the first legislative day of the new, 113th Congress.  Below is an updated look at the Senate rules state of play.  

      •    As Senate Decides on Final Rules Package, Reformers Have Support for Significant Change: While we await the specifics of the rules reform package Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) ultimately decides to put forward, momentum is behind a substantial package of changes.  Reforms backed by the Fix the Senate Now coalition and similar to those proposed by reform-minded Senators, such as Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), would protect the rights and voices of the minority party in the Senate, while curbing the massive obstruction that has brought so much legislative business to a halt.   As Senator Reid said in November 2012: “I think the rules have been abused, and we are going to work to change them. We will not do away with the filibuster, but we will make the Senate a more meaningful place. We are going to make it so we can get things done."  Of note, reformers have secured the necessary 51 votes for changing the rules via the constitutional option, if necessary.  

      •    The Levin/McCain “More of the Same” Proposal: An alternative proposal unveiled last week is a, recipe for continued Senate gridlock.  As the Fix the Senate Now coalition explains in detail here, the alternative proposal advanced by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and six of their colleagues lacks transparency and accountability; allows continued minority veto of all legislative matters; still would  provide multiple chances to filibuster legislation; and would keep the obstructionist status quo for many executive branch and judicial nominees. We are hopeful that Senator Reid will advance a more substantial package of Senate reforms, as he has called for previously.

      •    Fix the Senate Now Coalition Delivers Strong Support for Real Reform, Not Weak Alternatives: The Fix the Senate Now coalition will engage in a Day of Action on Thursday, January 3rd, to demonstrate the broad public support for real Senate rules reform. The Day of Action will build on coalition activities in late December, which included contacting more than 2 million members and generating texts, emails and so many phone calls that the U.S. Capitol switchboard was shut down for a time.  Coalition members also distributed flyers to Senate offices, helped to generate nearly half a million Facebook likes, and built a petition drive enabling ordinary Americans to stand up for real Senate rules and filibuster reform. Earlier this week, the Fix the Senate Now coalition released a letter signed by 30 national organizations and reiterating support for “a strong and common sense package of rules reforms in the U.S. Senate to be taken up on the first legislative day of the 113th Congress,” while registering objections to the Levin/McCain alternative proposal. The following 30 organizations signed the letter: AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Justice, American Association of University Women, Brennan Center, Campaign for America's Future, Clean Water Action, Common Cause, Credo Action, CWA, Demos, Democracy 21, DREAM Action Coalition, Every Child Matters, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, IBT, MALDEF, NAACP, NEA, National Action Network, Progressive Congress, Sierra Club, TWU, UAW, UFCW, United Steelworkers, USAction, Voices for Progress, Working Families, and Woman's National Democratic Club.  

      •    Major Distinctions Between 2005 Senate Rules Battle & Today: Some have tried to suggest a false equivalence between the 2005 “nuclear option” debate and the current rules reform effort.  But there are vital differences: while the 2005 push for reform sought to change rules in mid-session, the proposed constitutional option follows past Senate precedent and seeks rules changes at the start of the new Congress – when a new Senate establishes the rules under which it will be governed.  Deriving from Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution, the constitutional option has been approved multiple times since the cloture provision was adopted in 1917; the last being in 1975 when it was the catalyst for amending the filibuster rule to its current form. Of note, each time the filibuster rule has been amended, reformers used the “constitutional option” at the start of a new session to compel the Senate to act in a bi-partisan manner.  There also are big differences between what was proposed in 2005, and the reforms under consideration now: the 2005 attempt sought to eliminate the filibuster entirely on judicial nominations.  In contrast, today’s reform effort would preserve the minority’s voice and ability to filibuster, but make the process uniformly more deliberative, accountable, and streamlined through such provisions as the “talking filibuster” and only providing one chance to filibuster a bill during its legislative life cycle.  

      •    Public Strongly Supports Real Senate Reform: Polling released in December 2012 demonstrates that the public overwhelmingly supports Senate rules reform to move past the unprecedented obstruction of recent years.  The public supports the concept of rules reform, as well as specific reform provisions such as the “talking filibuster” and streamlining the nominations process for judicial nominees.  


      For more information, or to schedule an interview with Fix the Senate Now leaders, contact Michael Earls at 202-261-2388, media@fixthesenatenow.org

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      Momentum Builds for Strong Senate Rules Reform As Leaders Criticize Weak Levin-McCain Offering

      Washington, DC – An array of national organizations and leaders are speaking out in support of a substantial package of rules reforms and against the weak Senate rules proposal unveiled last Friday to ensure a functional and deliberative Senate.

      • Release of New Sign-On Letter Demonstrating Strong Support for Real Reform, Not Weak Alternatives: The Fix the Senate Now coalition today released a letter to Democratic leadership signed by 27 national organizations and reiterating support for “a strong and common sense package of rules reforms in the U.S. Senate to be taken up on the first legislative day of the 113th Congress.” Reformers have secured the necessarily 51 votes for changing the rules via the constitutional option in January. As a result, reform advocates are calling for the Senate to reject the weak package unveiled by eight Senators. As the letter notes, “we were disturbed and disappointed by the weak reforms recently announced by a group of Senators. Their proposal is little more than a status quo, business as usual, recipe for continued Senate obstruction. Further, it does nothing to bring much needed transparency and accountability. While we appreciate tradition, we also need a Congress that works and is not mired in gridlock.”

      The letter is signed by 30 organizations: AFSCME, AFL-CIO, Alliance for Justice, American Association of University Women, Brennan Center, Campaign for America's Future, Clean Water Action, Common Cause, Credo Action, CWA, Demos, Democracy 21, DREAM Action Coalition, Every Child Matters, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, IBT, MALDEF, NAACP, NEA, National Action Network, Progressive Congress, Sierra Club, TWU, UAW, UFCW, United Steelworkers, USAction, Voices for Progress, Working Families, and Woman's National Democratic Club. View the letter at: http://cwafiles.org/national/issues/PolicyIssues/MiscSenateRules/fix-the-senate-to-30-orgs.pdf

      • National Leaders Criticize Proposal as Recipe for Gridlock: The national leaders speaking out include:

      o Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice: "The Levin-McCain proposal’s silence about nominees for circuit courts of appeals and Supreme Court nominees is problematic. Given Republican intransigence over the past four years, our concern is that filibusters of these nominees will continue. All Americans need the assurance of real reform provided in the plan backed by Fix the Senate Now."

      o Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America: “The Levin/McCain filibuster proposal is without merit. It is not a bipartisan compromise, but an abdication of leadership at a time when meaningful reform is possible. Their proposal bows to the entrenched power of the status quo which has failed our democracy. Senate gridlock is no longer an option for America. Real change is required to restore our democracy and we expect the Leader and a majority of Senators to use the Constitutional option to make those reforms January 3.”

      o Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause: “This supposed deal is a cynical scheme to preserve the minority's ability to block all legislation without even having to engage in debate. It's hard to believe that supporters can promote it with a straight face. This continues to give a minority of senators complete veto power over the legislative process. At the very least, senators blocking action should be required to show up and talk. Senators have tried - and been suckered by - 'gentleman's agreements' to minimize filibusters. It's time for real reform."

      o Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice: “The Levin-McCain proposal would do far too little to restore functionality to the Senate. We have seen over the past two years that handshake agreements cannot curb abuse of the rules. It is constitutional, necessary, and appropriate for a majority of senators to take a stand and pass meaningful Senate Rules reform on January 3.”

      • Why Fix the Senate Now Rejects the Alternative Proposal : As the Fix the Senate Now coalition stated last week, the rulespackage unveiled byeight Senators is a status quo, business as usual, recipe for continued Senate gridlock for the following reasons:

      o Lacks Transparency and Accountability: Instead of the “talking filibuster,” a reform that would force those wishing to block legislation make themselves public to explain their objection, today’s proposal would provide no transparency and accountability to obstructionists, continuing to allow for a silent filibuster of legislation.

      o Allows Continued Minority Veto of All Legislative Matters: Under current rules there is no cost to obstructing a vote on a bill, and 60 votes are presumed necessary for nearly all legislation. This proposal does nothing to change that. It does not impose burdens on filibustering senators that would force them to decide what merits the lost political capital of obstruction. Instead, the proposal would simply create another “gentlemen’s agreement” between the two party leaders to promise to not object on behalf of any members of their caucus. Recent history has demonstrated the failure of such agreements in the Senate.

      o Would Still Provide Multiple Chances to Filibuster Legislation: The Fix the Senate Now coalition has called for eliminating filibusters on the motion to proceed – a reform that along with eliminating the filibuster on multiple motions to go to conference would leave one opportunity to filibuster a bill during the legislative cycle, instead of the current four. While the package offered by the eight Senators would combine the current three motions needed to go to conference into one motion, that one motion would still require a cloture vote. Further, the proposal would not permanently make the motion to proceed a non-debatable motion.

      o Obstructionist Status Quo for Many Executive Branch and Judicial Nominees: The reform package does not sufficiently streamline the executive branch or judicial nominations process for all nominations, as it would only reduce post-cloture debate time for select nominees. Given the judicial vacancies crisis and the continued obstruction of qualified and non-controversial nominees, this proposal falls well short of the necessary reforms. By specifically exempting court of appeals and Supreme Court nominees, the deal seems to invite obstruction of those nominees.

       

      For More Information visit www.fixthesenatenow.org


      Contact: Michael Earls at 202-261-2388, media@fixthesenatenow.org

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