Fix the Senate Now

Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, August 23, 2013

Washington, DC – As the August recess continues, observers across the country continue to weigh-in on several fronts related to Senate gridlock – particularly abuse of the filibuster, and the urgent need to resolve a number of federal judicial vacancies.

Key quote:

Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on stalemates in the Senate, CommonWealth Magazine: "That's not gridlock. That's obstructionism. The Republicans are protecting those who have already made it and the Democrats are fighting to give everyone a shot. I'm sorry to be so political about it, but that's the way I see it."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Senate obstruction

See below for some additional key commentary and analysis from this week:

Commentary and Analysis

  • Stephen Spaulding, Counsel for Common Cause, Politico: “The 60-vote rule Arenberg reveres has created something that would appall the founders: a Senate in which a minority of states can take control of what was once considered the “world’s greatest deliberative body” and effectively shut down both Congress and the executive branch. The rule’s fatal flaw, the suit argues, is that it upsets, distorts and goes far beyond the balance the founders bargained between the interests of citizens residing in the larger states and those in the smaller states.”
  • Kate Sheppard and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post: “The coal industry is working to defeat a key energy nominee in a battle that has fractured the fossil fuel coalition and threatens to derail the president's climate action plan. But even an alliance of oil, gas and green groups might not be enough for Binz. The chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), warned the White House that Binz would face an uphill climb in his committee, according to a person familiar with the exchange. The administration went ahead with the nomination.”
  • Nora Mead Brownell, a George W. Bush appointee who served as a FERC commissioner from 2001 to 2006, in a Huffington Post piece: "I'm frankly outraged by the process that these appointments have become … They've become political battlegrounds where good people are torn apart because someone doesn't agree with their policies. The role of the Senate is to approve based on whether they're qualified or not, not whether they agree with that appointee."
  • Matthew Yglesias, Slate: “… Making it harder to pass laws simply makes it harder to pass laws. It has nothing in particular to do with majoritarianism or minority interests or anything else. It's a status quo measure. To the extent that you think the status quo is great, then maybe you love a 60 vote threshold. Maybe you think it should be raised to 65 or 75 or 95. Or maybe instead of a bicameral legislature we should have a four-chamber legislature. It's easy to think of new ways to make it harder to change the laws. But that's the issue. Making it hard to change laws systematically preserves the advantages of whatever groups are advantaged by the status quo.”
  • Scott Lemieux, The American Prospect: “The constitutionalism of the framers was a mixture of majority rule and checks on majority power; no support for any particular check can be inferred from this. The fact that they didn't include a supermajority requirement on Senate legislative votes even though they did for other things (such as veto overrides and constitutional amendments) tends to suggest that they thought that a routine supermajority requirement wasn't a desirable check.”
  • Editorial, Billings Gazette (MT): “The Senate is scheduled to be in session weekdays all month after Sept. 9. It takes both chambers to pass legislation, but senators alone can act on the backlog of judicial nominations. Top priority should be given to designated Judicial Emergencies, such the two Montana U.S. District Court judgeships. The Senate Judiciary Committee should quickly send the nominations of Judge Susan Watters and Justice Brian Morris to the Senate for approval and leadership should bring them up for floor vote just as quickly.”
  • Roy M. Fish, Guest Columnist, Shreveport Times (LA): The will of the majority is supposed to prevail in our law making process subject to the protection of minority rights. Two current practices are thwarting the will of the majority, abuse of the filibuster and gerrymandering. The filibuster has been a tool of the minority in the Senate to defeat legislation supported by the majority. Historically, it was used only rarely to defeat critical legislation or presidential appointments. Since Democrats gained a majority in the Senate in the post Bush-Cheney era, Republicans have used it more in one year than it was previously used in 50.
  • Letters to Editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA): “He voted against the bipartisan Paycheck Fairness Act for equal pay for women. And he recently said at a Tea Party-sponsored event, "I told you we'd kill it, and we did," referring to the successful filibuster he led to stop the bipartisan transportation bill -- despite more than 4,000 of Pennsylvania's bridges being structurally deficient. That is the reason Sen. Toomey's obstructionist voting is so wrong: It harms Pennsylvania, whether veterans benefits, women's rights or our deteriorating highways.”
  • Letter to Editor, Arizona Daily Sun (AZ): “I hope Sen. Jeff Flake will be paying attention when the next big test of the Senate’s ability to govern comes up after Labor Day: votes on three highly qualified nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. Sen. McCain says all three of these nominees deserve a yes-or-no vote on the Senate floor, and he’s right. But some GOP Senators take the opposite view. They don’t seem to care how qualified the nominees are.”
  • Letter to the Editor, Star Journal (WI): “As long as the Republicans are ruled by the right wing extremists this all out obstruction will go on forever. They are the bully boys out on the playground holding office in a Congress which is supposed to represent the people who sent them there. They are getting rich at our expense.”

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

    Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, August 16, 2013

    Washington, DC – Though Congress is on recess, the issue of U.S. Senate rules reform continues to garner attention. The key comment this past week came from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who pledged to revisit Senate rules reform if Republicans continue to block nominations to fill three vacancies on the influential D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

    As Talking Points Memo reported, Senator Reid discussed Republican obstruction and rules reform in an interview with Nevada Public Radio last Friday, saying regarding Republican judicial filibusters, “It’s been abused, and if it continues to be abused, I am confident the rules will be changed… unless these characters who are filibustering literally everything — unless they change — I think that’s where we’re headed.” 

    Other key comments and analysis this week regarding gridlock in Washington and the need for Senate reform, included:

    • Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), as reported by AgWeek: “We need to get back to regular order … The rules of the U.S. Senate are not working for America.”

      • Robert Reich, New York Times: “Congress began its summer recess last week and won’t reconvene until after Labor Day. You’d be forgiven for not noticing a difference. With just 15 bills signed into law so far this year, the 113th Congress is on pace to be the most unproductive since at least the 1940s.”
      • Editorial, Billings Gazette (MT): Top priority should be given to designated Judicial Emergencies, such the two Montana U.S. District Court judgeships. The Senate Judiciary Committee should quickly send the nominations of Judge Susan Watters and Justice Brian Morris to the Senate for approval and leadership should bring them up for floor vote just as quickly.
      • Letter to the Editor, Delaware County Times (PA): “Politicizing the constitutionally-mandated nominations process is unfortunately not new for our senator [Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)]. Last year, before the presidential election started to heat up, Toomey and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., endorsed two judicial candidates to fill long-vacant seats on Pennsylvania’s district courts. Toomey stressed the importance of filling out the vacancies soon, saying that the Middle District had been “in a state of judicial emergency since 2009.”  But later, right before the nominations were about to be confirmed in the Senate, Toomey allowed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to block the votes on the judicial nominees in hopes of having Mitt Romney elected president so that they could replace the nominations. As a result, Pennsylvanians had to wait until well after the election to address our judicial emergency. We must stop sending people to Congress who just obstruct.”
      • Politico reports on the high numbers of vacancies in the executive branch, noting that “dozens of high-level jobs at key departments that require nomination and confirmation. Even with the expected turnover of a second-term administration, that’s extremely high. And at Homeland Security — where Obama has already waited more than a month to nominate a successor to Napolitano and Republicans have already signaled a fight over her successor — and other agencies, that’s where things are stuck.  The open spots run from the Defense Department’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness, who spent seven months on the job before being formally nominated at the end of July, to Small Business Administration chief Karen Mills, who said in February that she would hold off her departure until a successor was named — and then, after waiting five months, announced she was giving up and leaving without a successor being nominated.”

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      Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, August 9, 2013

      Washington, DC – Judicial nominations are emerging as a new battleground for Senate obstruction – prompting some observers, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), to call for Senate rules reform if three nominees to the DC Circuit are blocked from receiving a vote.  Among the key developments and related commentary:

      • The Wall Street Journal describes the impending battle over judicial nominees to the DC Circuit: “Back in July, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would consider the ‘nuclear option’ of changing the Senate's rules to prevent a filibuster of executive-branch nominees. A deal was struck to avert that outcome, but after the August recess Senate Democrats may be back on the conga line to threaten the nuclear option against judicial nominees.  According to Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, in an interview with C-SPAN, the rules change could ‘come back on the table’ if Republicans filibuster any of President Obama's three picks for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
      • Los Angeles Times editorial writer: “Harry Reid Should Be Ready to Go ‘Nuclear’ Over Judicial Nominees”: Michael McGough, an editorial writer for the LA Times, writes, “Last month, the Senate moved back from the brink of the ‘nuclear option,’ a parliamentary maneuver that would have allowed Democrats to confirm President Obama’s executive branch nominees without amassing the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid relented after Republicans agreed to allow votes on several Obama appointees…But now, Republicans are threatening to obstruct Obama’s nominees to an important appeals court. If they persist in their obstructionism, Reid should open the briefcase with the launch codes…

      …[DC Circuit nominee Patricia] Millett is absurdly well qualified for the position, having argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court and 36 in the courts of appeals…The GOP argument that Obama wants to “pack” the court -- a la FDR’s attempt to add seats to the Supreme Court in the 1930s -- is a laughable exercise in projection. It’s the Republicans who want to manipulate the size of the D.C. Circuit to keep it from moving in a leftward direction, as it probably would with three Obama appointees. But that’s the way the system works. As Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has pointed out, “elections have consequences.” One of those consequences is that a president gets to fill vacancies on federal courts. Yes, senators have the right to reject such nominees if they are unqualified or out of the mainstream, but Millett is neither.”

      • Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein writes in the American Prospect, “So what could make Democrats revisit the filibuster? On legislation, it would probably require either unified government or a belief that unified government (in their favor) is on its way. For judges, it’s likely a matter of degree. If Republicans, for example, do blockade some seats—refusing, for example, to confirm anyone to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—then Democrats may reluctantly threaten again to go nuclear…It’s not so bad that the Senate is slow to react. Stable rules are good for democracies. But it’s also good to see that when norms are destroyed—and Republicans have certainly done that—senators will eventually take action. We’ll just have to see whether the July showdown has taught Republicans that pushing too hard has costs, or whether they will resolve to push even harder on Senate rules and norms in the future. For now, however, it seems possible that the Senate will be a bit more functional. Not great, but not so bad.”
      • Noam Scheiber writes in The New Republic: “Harry Reid Should Kill the Filibuster, for Real This Time”: Scheiber notes, “Up until three weeks ago, Senate Republicans had gone out of their way to block Obama’s highest-profile executive-branch nominees, typically for no other reason than that the president had selected them.  The GOP finally backed down after Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened to do away with the filibuster for such appointments, and seven nominees promptly sailed through the Senate. But the victory was fleeting. Last week, Republicans simply shifted their fight from the executive to the judicial branch, vowing to deny an up-or-down vote on all three of Obama’s picks for the critical DC court of appeals…Many Senate Democrats seem genuinely alarmed by the idea of a filibuster-less existence should they lose their fragile majority.  But these fears are way overblown. Democrats would be in a stronger position if they went ahead and abolished the filibuster—not just for cabinet appointees and judges, but for legislation, too. That should strike fear in the hearts of Republicans and, at the very least, ensure that Democrats get their way when the GOP obstructs their nominees.”
      • Wall Street Journal letter to the editor from law professor Carl Tobias – “Your Math is Wrong on the DC Circuit”: Tobias, a professor at University of Richmond School of Law, writes in response to a WSJ editorial supporting Sen. Grassley’s effort to reduce the size of the DC Circuit, “The D.C. Circuit’s Judicial Math” (Review & Outlook, July 25) omits several critical considerations from the equation. Nearly half of the court’s caseload comprises challenges to federal agency decisions. Many of these appeals have enormous records that can run to 50,000 pages and present complex issues of law, science and economics. In April, the U.S. Judicial Conference, the most respected authority on judgeship needs, which Chief Justice John Roberts chairs, officially recommended to Congress that the D.C. Circuit requires 11 judgeships. The federal court policy-making arm premises its recommendations on conservative estimates of work and case loads to which Congress has conventionally deferred.”

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      Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, August 2, 2013

      Washington, DC – Obstruction and potential U.S. Senate rules reform remain key topics for discussion. See below for a recap of this week’s related activity – a mix of positive steps forward in the Senate for executive branch nominees combined with continued threats of obstruction for judicial nominations:

      • Executive Branch Nominations Move Forward – Senate Agreement Holds Thus Far: The Senate agreement to confirm executive branch nominees has thus far held up – with this week seeing the confirmation of five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to keep American labor law functional. Additionally, this week saw progress on nominations outside the scope of the initial Senate nominations agreement, as nominees such as James Comey to the FBI, Samantha Power as Ambassador to the United Nations, the long-overdue confirmation of B. Todd Jones to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and a series of nominees to top executive environmental and energy posts and Michael Piwowar and Kara M. Stein to the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC).
      • Warning Signs of Senate Obstruction on Judicial Nominees: While the confirmation of executive branch nominees is a positive sign of renewed Senate functionality, some Senate Republicans are gearing up for another round of obstruction of judicial nominations by relying on ridiculous claims (such as claiming that filling outstanding judicial vacancies on the DC Circuit represents court-packing).  “Senate Republican threats to block some nominees are sparking renewed speculation of whether Senate Democrats will once again consider Senate rules change to give the nominations an up-or-down vote.  In fact, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) told CQ this week that “I think the rules change will come back on the table if it’s [DC Court nominations] filibustered,” noting that, “I’m not asking for a Republican or Democratic court. I want one that’s balanced…It is not balanced now, and [Republicans] are trying to keep it unbalanced.”

      Talking Points Memo’s Sahil Kapur outlines the potential strategy for Senate Democrats, “If Republicans filibuster [DC Circuit nominee] Millett, Senate Democrats face significant pressure to invoke the nuclear option from liberal advocacy outfits like Fix The Senate Now, which is already gearing up to push Democrats in that direction. Democrats’ other option is to negotiate with Republicans to let some, if not all, of the nominees through. But that would be difficult given what’s at stake, unless party leaders can credibly threaten to change the rules if Republicans maintain their blockade.”

      Meanwhile, editorial boards and columnists from across the country continue to highlight how judicial vacancies are inhibiting federal courts across the country. For example, an editorial this week in the Billings Gazette noted, “Montana has two ‘judicial emergencies’ that demand prompt action by the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and the full Senate. Two of the three U.S. District judge slots in our state are vacant. And Montana’s U.S. District Courts are busy in a state with millions of acres of federal land, seven Indian reservations and serious drug trafficking issues … There’s no good reason why Morris and Watters can’t be confirmed before the Senate takes summer vacation next month. While Congress takes a break, new cases will be filed in Montana, and justice will be delayed — unless the Senate acts quickly to confirm Watters and Morris.”

      See below for additional related commentary and analysis:

      • Michelle Schwartz, Justice Watch, Alliance for Justice: “If there’s a new Era of Good Feelings prevailing in the Senate with respect to President Obama’s nominees to key posts, apparently the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn’t get the memo … This morning, they voted in lockstep against sending Patricia Millett—one of the president’s three mainstream, supremely qualified nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—to the Senate floor.  In doing so, they went out of their way to be clear that their beef was not with the nominee herself, but with allowing the D.C. Circuit to function with a full complement of judges. 
      • Jonathan Bernstein, Washington Post: “if Republicans attempt to blockade the three vacancies on the key D.C. Circuit Court … then Democrats will have little choice but to escalate — just as Democrats did when Republicans attempted “nullification” filibusters of any possible nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and other agencies in hopes of preventing those agencies from functioning .., The bottom line about the filibuster is that the best arguments for it are that, in a practical sense, it helps empower individual senators — and on the theoretical level, it allows intense minorities to block indifferent majorities. It shouldn’t, and in the long run cannot, be used to allow election losenewrs to dominate election winners. That’s what a blockade of the D.C. Circuit Court would mean, and Reid and the Democrats have an obligation to all those who voted for them, and for Obama, to shut this down.”

      Additionally, outside groups continue to draw attention to the need for fundamental Senate reform:

      • Sierra Club Ads in Arizona Republic Call on Jeff Flake to Fill Judicial Vacancies: The Sierra Club also launched new ads this week in both the online and print editions of the Arizona Republic, urging Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) to use his power on the Committee on the Judiciary to approve the nomination of Patricia Millett to a long-standing vacancy on D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and to end gridlock as a political tool. The ads are viewable here
      • Common Cause Litigation Challenging 60-Vote Threshold: In collaboration with Congressmen Keith Ellison (MN-05), John Lewis (GA-05), Hank Johnson (GA-04), Michael Michaud (ME-02) and DREAM Act beneficiaries, Common Cause filed a final brief to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in their litigation to challenge the constitutionality of the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold.

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

       

      New Ads Urge Senator Flake to End Washington Gridlock and Fill Key Judicial Vacancies

      (Phoenix, AZ) -- The Sierra Club is running new ads in both the online and print editions of the Arizona Republic, urging Senator Jeff Flake to use his power on the Committee on the Judiciary to approve the nomination of Patricia Millett to a long-standing vacancy on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Millett is expected to receive a vote before that committee on Thursday.
       
      Millett has worked under both Republican and Democratic administrations, serving in the Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton and as an assistant to the U.S. Solicitor General under both Clinton and President George W. Bush. Nonetheless, Millett’s nomination has been stalled since she was nominated in early June as part of the same unprecedented obstruction and gridlock in Washington that has left some key positions vacant for upwards of two years.
       
      “By using gridlock as a political tool, obstructionists in Washington have left our courtrooms without judges and have left key watchdog agencies without leaders,” said Pat Gallagher, Legal Director at the Sierra Club. “We must fill these critical vacancies to enforce the laws that protect our families and communities. But, Senator Jeff Flake can help end the partisan games and get the Senate back to work by voting for a bipartisan, well-qualified nominee like Patricia Millett.”
       
      The ads encourage Arizonans to contact Senator Flake, and will run throughout the committee vote.

       

       

      View the print version of the ad

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      About the Sierra Club
      The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.

       

      Senate Rules Reform ? the Weekly Recap, July 26, 2013

      Washington, DC – The U.S. Senate’s recent agreement to move forward on a slate of executive-level nominees signaled a refreshing step forward toward restoring functionality to the U.S. Senate. However, as a range of observers have commented in the past week, the Senate remains a bastion of obstruction – especially in regards to judicial nominations.   

      As Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, noted in a letter to the editor published in the Boston Globe: “The compromise essentially restored the status quo in respect to executive nominees that had applied before the administration of President Obama. The compromise did not address the judicial vacancy crisis, which has left the lower federal courts with a vacancy rate of approximately 10 percent the past four years. If Republican obstruction of judicial nominees persists, Democrats should seriously consider additional filibuster reform.”

      See below for post-agreement developments and additional commentary regarding Senate rules and obstruction:

      Coverage and Analysis

      • Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS), as reported by CNN: “Senate leaders should change how they use the filibuster…There are things that should be stopped, but at least there ought to be a vote…It can't continue, this constant holding up bills."

      Former Majority Leader Bob Dole on Senate rules abuse

        • Jennifer Bendery, Huffington Post: “It may not be factually accurate, but some Republican senators just can't resist accusing President Barack Obama of ‘court-packing’ as he tries to fill empty seats on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals … Not only is the charge factually inaccurate -- the court has three empty seats, which the president is constitutionally required to fill -- but one could easily make the case that Republican efforts to prevent Obama from filling empty court seats, thereby keeping those courts from having any more judges appointed by a Democrat, are actual instances of ‘court-unpacking.’"
        • E.J. Dionne, Washington Post: “Rationalizations for filibusters, moreover, have reached into anti-constitutional territory. Republicans were preventing the confirmation of Richard Cordray as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau not because there were problems with him but because they were still mad that the agency, which expands consumer power over financial institutions, had been created in the first place … it will take continuing pressure to keep the obstructionists at bay.”
        • Mark Moulitsas, The Hill: “Make no mistake, last week’s events ended the filibuster as we know it. Reid’s gambit was to eliminate the filibuster only for administration nominations, not judicial ones or legislation. But this deal means that a Senate majority can play the nuclear card anytime the minority amps up its obstruction beyond reasonable levels. And that applies to all Senate business — not just administration nominations.”
        • Joan McCarter, Daily Kos: “Last month, Obama nominated three people as a package to fill the remaining vacancies, and Republicans immediately reacted by introducing legislation to reduce the number of seats on that court. These nominations are going to come up in the fall, after August recess and while the Congress is also dealing with the budget and with the debt limit. There will be real incentive for Obama and Senate Democrats to backburner these nominations—and the fight that's going to come with them—to not poison the well during the budget debate. That would be a real mistake, for the judiciary, for the country, and for Obama's legacy. For years to come.”
        • Stephen Spaulding, Common Cause, in The Hill: “But the Senate minority retains its power to use the 60-vote filibuster rule to block other nominees and keep the Senate from even debating matters like gun violence prevention and student loan rates … Fortunately, Reid and his colleagues stood up this time against those who prefer gridlock to legislating. Hopefully, this was just step one.  It shows how broken the Senate has become that merely doing its job – providing advice and consent – is grounds for late night joint caucuses and dueling press conferences.  Until the Senate reins in the power that the 60-vote filibuster rule provides to its minority, we will still need to work to reclaim democracy.

        Editorials

        • Editorial, New York Times: “But there is always another crisis to come. That’s why it’s regrettable that Mr. Reid and the Democrats didn’t vote to change the rules for this Senate and for a future one controlled by Republicans. They should have stood up for the principle that simple-majority votes should determine confirmation of executive appointments, not a 60-vote threshold that gives minority parties a veto over a president’s team and that was unintended by the Constitution.”
        • Editorial, Seattle Times: “There are about 100 vacancies among federal judicial appointments as Republicans filibuster nominees. That compares with about 40 at the same point in George W. Bush's presidency. Once a filibuster is threatened, there are no all-night speeches — a la Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis — required. Senate rules allow the threat of filibusters and require 60 voters to break them. Inside the Beltway, filibuster reform — allowing filibusters to be broken with a simple majority — is called the "nuclear option." Outside the Beltway, that's known as an election.”
        • Editorial, Providence Journal: “It’s too bad that Mr. Reid had to threaten to make the rules change, but the public deserves to have qualified and honest people put into these big jobs expeditiously so that the government can do its work.”
        • Editorial, Wilmington News-Journal: “The fight is over the president’s legacy. Judges usually stay in office long after a president leaves. When President Obama came into office, 60 percent of federal judges were Republican. If all of the current openings were filled by President Obama, the Republican affiliation would fall to below 50 percent. Therefore, the Republican fight has been to stall confirmations. Our trial courts need those seats filled. The functioning of our courts is more important that partisan politics. We have opposed Democratic politicking when George Bush was president. The president won. He gets to pick, we said then. And we say it again now. Barack Obama won. He gets to pick the judges.”
        • Editorial, Fresno Bee: “This temporary truce is fine, but it does nothing to end minority obstructionism on judicial appointments and legislation -- or future appointments. This deal should be the last of its kind struck in the Senate. It is long past time to change the filibuster rules.”
        • Editorial, Iowa Press-Citizen: “But the rule changes over the past half-century have mutated the filibuster beyond its original purpose. And now the mere threat of a filibuster is able to bring Senate business to a near standstill in which a three-fifths supermajority is needed to conduct almost any procedural business … The change Reid threatened this week was a minor, commonsense reform. As such, we’re almost disappointed that a compromise was reached. This was one, focused, limited, overdue “nuclear option” we wish had gone off.”

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

          FTSN Coalition Thanks Senator Harry Reid for Delivering Important Step Forward for U.S. Senate

          Washington, DC – The Fix the Senate Now coalition extends thanks to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his support and leadership on behalf of needed reforms in the U.S. Senate.

          Earlier this week, Fix the Senate Now called the Senate agreement to advance key executive branch nominees for an up-or-down vote and ultimate confirmation in the U.S. Senate “an important first step toward returning the Senate to basic functionality.”

          While there remains work to be done to advance additional Senate reforms, we are confident that the continued leadership of Senate Majority Leader Reid and the continued advocacy of reform-minded Senators (such as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) will eventually return the Senate to its best traditions.


          Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information

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          FTSN: Today?s Deal an Important First Step toward Returning the Senate to Basic Functionality

          Washington, DC – The news that the U.S. Senate has reached an agreement to advance key executive branch nominees for an up-or-down vote and ultimate confirmation is an important first step toward returning the Senate to basic functionality, the Fix the Senate Now Coalition said today.

          In addition to the impending resolution of the cabinet-level nominations of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, it is heartening that the Senate will advance the nomination of Richard Cordray to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) and nominees to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In both of the latter cases, today’s agreement is a strong rebuke of Senate Republicans’ strategy of using the tools of gridlock to block and nullify the existing law of the land and basic government functioning.

          However, let there be no mistake that the Senate still has work to do to fully earn back the trust of the American people and to live up to its best traditions. Until 60 votes is no longer the default threshold for every order of Senate business; until the plague of federal judicial vacancies is resolved; and until the Senate raises the costs of obstruction to make gridlock for gridlock’s sake a less viable strategy, we will continue to work to fix the broken Senate.

          We commend Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) for his support for the President's nominees, as well as the continued advocacy of reform-minded Senators (such as Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)).

          Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information

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          Press Call Features Sen. Blumenthal & Others Responding to Deal on Nominations

          As Richard Cordray cleared a major legislative hurdle towards being confirmed as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and as the U.S. Senate announced a deal to move forward on other nominees, Americans United for Change held a press conference call with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and leading labor, financial reform and progressive groups to underscore why it is vitally important these nominees -- like Cordray or Gina McCarthy to head the EPA or the picks for the NLRB -- get the up-or-down vote they deserve.

          Listen to the call:

          Pro-Senate Rules Reform Organizations Deliver over 1.1 Million Petition Signatures & Emails

          Washington, DC – As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) prepares to overhaul Senate filibuster procedures to establish a simple majority vote for executive nominations, pro-Senate rules reform organizations will be delivering over 1.1 million signatures and e-mail messages in support of the effort to end gridlock and stop abuse of the filibuster.

          Groups delivering petitions include: Alliance for Justice (AFJ), Common Cause, Communications Workers of America, Daily Kos, Demos, Sierra Club and US Action.  The petition drive and email campaign is the first installment of a larger public engagement effort in support of Senate reform.

          The signatures and emails call on the Senate to stop the abuse of the filibuster and ensure that the President’s nominees have up or down votes.  For example:

          The filibuster used to be an important tool that gave the minority a real voice in the Senate. Not anymore.

          For too long now, this tactic has been misused and abused. Congress has stopped legislating effectively, with Senators using ridiculous dodge tactics to block real progress.

          We have a chance to end gridlock and stop the abuse of the filibuster, but we need your help to do it.

          Contact your Senators today. You can enter your phone number below and we will call you to connect you to your Senator's office. Or sign your name to our petition and we will deliver it to your Senators.

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