Fix the Senate Now Leaders Call for Reforms to ?Break the Logjam? on Obstructed Nominees

Eight years ago this month, the Republican Senate Majority under then Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TX) was committed to change the Senate rules to get nominations confirmed for President George W. Bush. The eventual Gang of 14 agreement over nominees helped to break the Senate logjam and move qualified nominations forward.

In light of the unceasing obstruction in this 113th Senate that has blocked numerous qualified executive branch and judicial nominees from advancing and in anticipation of the Gang of 14 agreement’s anniversary later this week, Fix the Senate Now has unveiled a new ad in the Beltway newspaper Roll Call titled “Break the Logjam.” As the ad notes, today “our government agencies and federal courts are unable to serve the public properly because of unprecedented obstruction of Presidential nominees. President Obama won his election and now deserves an up or down vote on his nominees.” The ad calls on the Democratic majority to “make the Senate work again.”

 In addition to the Fix the Senate Now ad, a range of organizations and leaders involved with the Fix the Senate Now coalition are making clear the need for Senate rules reform:

  • Alliance for Justice: Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice, wrote, “With battles ahead over President Obama’s choices for Secretary of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director and the National Labor Relations Board, and fights over the nation’s second most important court likely to follow, democracy itself is on trial in the United States Senate. If Republicans persist in preventing yes-or-no votes on President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees, the only recourse will be for the majority to revisit Senate rules reform and put an end once and for all to Republican efforts to subvert the Senate’s constitutional obligation to provide advice and consent.”

Nan Aron of Alliance for Justice

    • Common Cause: Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs, stated, “Congress is about to leave Washington for its Memorial Day vacation … But as far as most Americans are concerned, the Senate has been on vacation since January, essentially paralyzed by a group of senators who’ve exploited the rules to block votes on important legislation and nominations that have been pending for months … The current Republican leadership has adopted routine use of the filibuster as an operating principle, making a mockery of the 'Gang of 14' deal and a new 'compromise' in January that was supposed to get the Senate back on track … We call on senators to revisit and change their rules so that legislation can pass and nominees can be confirmed with 51 votes, a simple majority.”
    • The Communications Workers of America (CWA) released a statement noting, “Today, Republicans have since shredded the ‘Gang of 14’ deal and the subsequent gentleman’s agreement that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made at the beginning of this session, and they’ve resorted to obstruction by any means possible … If Senate Republicans continue to block votes on presidential nominees, the Senate’s Democratic majority has the ability to change the Senate rules on nominations. Obama’s nominees deserve an up-or-down vote. We don’t need another handshake agreement. It’s time for real change.”
    • NAACP: Hilary Shelton, NAACP Director of the Washington Bureau and Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Policy, said in a statement, “The NAACP strongly urges the U.S. Senate to advance reforms that improve the basic functioning of the institution. Despite the Senate rules reform agreement announced in January, the filibuster and other procedural tools continue to enable a small number of Senators to halt progress on critical legislative priorities, block judicial appointees from key federal vacancies, and keep qualified executive branch nominees and agencies unable to fulfill their stated missions … We call on all Senators to recognize that the gridlock cannot continue and to explore reforms that ensure that qualified nominees can fill critical government and judicial vacancies.”
    • Sierra Club: Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said in a statement, “Whether it was minority leader Mitch McConnell filibustering his own bill or a committee full of Republicans not showing up to work to delay the appointment of Gina McCarthy, there is no shortage of evidence that Senate Republicans will do or say anything to stand in the way of a functioning government. In the meantime, the agencies in charge of protecting our air and water and defending the rights of workers and consumers are left without leaders and the courtrooms where our laws are enforced are left without judges. The cost of these political games is too high for American families and for our democracy. There is no excuse for sidelining highly-qualified nominees like Gina McCarthy and Thomas Perez any longer. It’s time responsible Senators stood up to the gridlock by pursuing reforms to fix the Senate and ensure a functioning government can no longer be held hostage by a handful of reckless ideologues.”

    The topic of Senate rules reform has been back in the spotlight recently due to Senate obstruction and the possibility of Senate Democrats revisiting rules reform.  As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post reported last Friday, “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is increasingly focused on the month of July as the time to exercise the so-called ‘nuclear option’ and revisit filibuster reform, and he has privately told top advisers that he’s all but certain to take action if the Senate GOP blocks three upcoming key nominations, a senior Senate Democratic aide familiar with his thinking tells me … Reid is eyeing a change to the rules that would do away with the 60-vote threshold on all judicial and executive branch nominations, the aide says, on the theory that this is a good way to immediately break an important logjam in Washington — without changing the rules when it comes to legislation.”


     For more on the need for Senate rules reform, please visit www.fixthesenatenow.org

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