Last night, David Waldman came to the LCDC presented his work on Congressional procedure and how to reform the cloture rules in the Senate. He was invited because not only is he a nationally-recognized expert on the subject, but he’s also a neighbor who lives right here in Loudoun.
His presentation was a total success, as many members spent a long time afterward discussing the niceties of procedure, the Senate and what can be done. The essential process for fixing the filibuster is as follows.
- At the opening of each new session of Congress (the January after an even-year election), each house of Congress votes on the rules it will use during that session. Those rules pass by a simple majority. That means that a simple majority (51 Senators) can vote to change the filibuster rules in January 2011. Senator Tom Udall has committed to making the necessary motion to open filibuster rules up for discussion and potential change.
- If that motion to discuss change succeeds, the question of how to change it becomes relevant. One option for filibuster reform is Sen. Bennet’s proposal to make the motion to proceed non-debateable. Essentially, that would make it impossible to filibuster the question on whether or not to even have a debate. This would cut the amount of delay in half (of course, half of infinity is still infinity).
- Another serious option is Sen. Harkin’s proposal to reduce the number of votes required to end debate over the course of that debate. Under this proposal, it would still take weeks to end debate, but it would be possible to end debate with a simple majority – something that is impossible now.
If nothing else, passing these three motions (1. The motion to open up the rules for discussion, 2. Making a motion to proceed non-debateable, 3. Making the number of votes necessary for cloture variable with the length of the debate) would get the Senate moving, in a legislative sense, again. It wouldn’t become the superhighway that the House is, but it wouldn’t be total gridlock either.
The power to fix the filibuster problem in the Senate rests with our Democratic Senators. Click through to see how you (yes you!) can take action, today, to help get things moving in the Senate in January.
After the positive response from LCDC membership to his presentation last night, David was kind enough to send along links to the things that we can do:
- Progressive Congress is the organization sponsoring David’s work on cloture and process reform. Click through and join their efforts.
- Credo Action is providing matching funds and petitions for the Fellowship that is allowing David to dedicate time to this effort.
- Finally, you can donate directly via ActBlue to the Fellowship fund itself.
As David mentioned last night, the key to getting the right thing done is getting it on the minds of our Congressmembers early. That means that for cloture reform to happen next January, we need to get Sen. Warner and Sen. Webb to start positioning themselves to vote for it now. Hearing from us makes a difference, so please take the time to write our Senators about this, today. Feel free to steal this language:
The Senate has become the graveyard of good legislation. Over 250 good bills have been passed by the House of Representatives only to be filibustered to death by Republicans in the Senate.
Abuse of the rules of the Senate has become the last refuge of Republican scoundrels, and I am asking you to put up with it no longer. In January of 2011, I ask you to vote for changes to the cloture rules of the Senate. Specifically:
• Please vote to pass Sen. Udall’s motion to open the cloture rules for debate at the commencement of the next Congress.
• Please vote to pass Sen. Bennet’s rule change making the motion to proceed non-debatable.
• Please vote to pass Sens. Harkin and Shaheen’s proposal to gradually reduce the votes necessary to close debate as that debate continues over the course of days.
The time has come to make Congress work for the American people.
Thank you for your time.
We have the power to change Congress, let’s use it.