Progressive Leaders Make Case for Senate Rules Reform

Ben Jealous, President of the NAACP, writing in The Guardian: “This is a crucial moment for the progressive movement in America. But if we want to make real, lasting changes in the American way of life, we need to make some fundamental changes in how our democracy works…abuse of the Senate's filibuster rule has made it even more difficult to address major challenges on the federal level. Harry Reid has served as Senate majority leader for about as long as Lyndon Johnson, but Johnson saw one filibuster on his watch, while Reid has struggled through over 350. With our archaic filibuster rules, senators no longer need to stand at the podium and pontificate as they did in the film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. These days, a senator can block democracy while enjoying a cocktail in the cloak room. We need filibuster reform that encourages transparency and discourages cowardice.”

Michael Brune, Executive Director of Sierra Club, writing on Huffington Post
: “The U.S. Senate is often described as ‘the world's greatest deliberative body’ -- so let's give the senators a chance to deliberate. Oh, and senators should no longer be able to kill a bill just by threatening a filibuster. We should actually make them stand up and do it. Americans get it. A new poll shows that more than 70 percent of us are in favor of changes to the Senate rules, with only 20 percent opposed. Leaving the rules as they are is not an option. A ‘handshake’ deal between senators won't work, either. That's all been tried before, and the problem has only gotten worse. Our nation faces too many challenges and opportunities -- spurring clean-energy growth, helping middle-class families, addressing the climate crisis -- to settle for a ‘do- nothing’ Senate.”

Larry Cohen, President of Communications Workers of America (CWA), writing on Huffington Post: “It is absurd that after a two-year, $3 billion presidential election, presidential appointments can simply be blocked in the cloak room with no discussion. Filibustering by the minority will still be possible, but those senators should be required to rustle up 40 supportive colleagues, so that lawmakers holding up the debate actually prove they have the votes. Our coalition also believes filibustering senators should actually hold the floor and speak on the subject. The American people are entitled to a debate, especially on issues that have majority support. Without reform, we've witnessed 386 silent filibusters during Sen. Harry Reid's six years as majority leader. Lyndon B. Johnson served six years as Senate majority leader with one filibuster.”

Nan Aron, President, Alliance for Justice: “The filibuster was intended to be used in extremely rare instances involving fundamental matters of principle – matters so important that Senators were willing to endure a little physical discomfort, stay on the Senate floor and talk for as long as it took.”

Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause: ““If a senator is determined to block a majority from passing legislation, at the very least they should have to stand up and explain why. That’s what democracy requires – the American people deserve to know who is stopping the Senate from doing the people’s work.”

Eleanor Smeal, President of the Feminist Majority: “The Republicans are abusing the filibuster and women are paying the price. The Senate Republicans have filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act and have blocked appointees to the federal bench who are in favor of women’s rights.”

Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA: “Big oil lobbyists get Senators to filibuster bills and the American people never know. Obstruction of legislation done in the service of the corporate bottom line is unacceptable. Senators need to take the floor and talk if they want to filibuster, not phone it in. The American people deserve to know where the people we send to Washington, DC stand.”

Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of CREW: “The Senate was designed to be slow-moving, not inert. Given the pernicious obstructionism, it is imperative the Senate adopt new rules, including filibuster reform, to ensure senators actually vote on the many issues and nominations before them.”

Miles Rapoport, President of Demos: “Americans urgently need Congress to pass shared solutions to our shared problems – on jobs, college costs and the freedom to vote, to name just a few – yet the Senate remains broken and the misuse of the filibuster is at the core of that dysfunction. It’s time to fix the Senate now so we can get back to the hard work of creating pathways to a diverse middle class and achieving a true democracy for all Americans.”

To access the PPP polling results on Senate rules reform, visit http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/AggregatedResults.pdf

Click here to view a copy of the sign-on letter from 51 national organizations laying out important provisions for real Senate rules reform

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


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

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