Statement by Larry Cohen, Chair, Democracy Initiative

In response to last night’s Senate filibuster by Sen. Chris Murphy
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Last night’s fearless filibuster - spearheaded by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) – was a win for democracy. Sen. Murphy and his colleagues used the filibuster as it was intended – to ensure the minority voice is heard.

Too often, senators abuse this rule and hold “silent” filibusters, bringing critical legislation to a screeching halt without ever having to give anyone an explanation. The threat of filibuster can have the same effect – bills and nominations are left hanging out to dry until a senator gets what he or she wants – often on an unrelated project or provision that scores points back home or curries favor with a special interest. This stranglehold on democracy must end.

Three years ago, because of an abuse of the Senate rules, the Senate failed to pass the Manchin-Toomey amendment to expand background checks for certain types of gun sales, despite having a majority of the Senate’s support.

Last night, we saw the stark difference that the democratic process can have when it is used to advance the voice of the people rather than silence it.

Larry Cohen is chair of the Democracy Initiative and the immediate past president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). He was president of CWA from 2005 until June 2015. He is a leading voice for workers’ rights, fair trade, voting rights and big money out of politics. He is a member of the Democratic National Committee, and chaired the AFL-CIO organizing committee for the past ten years.