New York, NY – Today a broad coalition of civil rights groups, labor, and good government organizations sent a letter to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer urging him to support meaningful filibuster reform. The coalition will also deliver a petition with the signatures of over 28,000 New Yorkers to Senator Schumer.
Next week the Senate is rumored to consider a number of fixes to the filibuster, but the coalition made very clear that the only true reform would be S. Res. 4 which calls for the following:
- Streamline the nomination process so that nominees will get a yes or no vote on the Senate floor, including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to 2 hours.
- Eliminate the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed;
- Require that those wishing to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster-i.e., mandating “talking filibusters”;
- Assert that 41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate.
In the 112th Congress alone the filibuster was used to thwart important legislation like the DISCLOSE Act and the DREAM Act, making it the least productive since the 1947 “Do Nothing Congress”. In 2009 alone, there was double the number of filibusters that occurred in the entire 20-year period from 1950–1969, when they were used repeatedly to block civil rights legislation and the equality of all citizens under the law.
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice, said:
“The last Congress was one of the least productive in history. It is natural to blame divided government, but Senate paralysis, due to the filibuster, is a major factor crippling Congress. Fixing the filibuster is the first step in revitalizing our government. With multiple options on the table, strong leadership is vital. Senator Schumer should support a robust talking filibuster as an essential first step to fixing Congress.”
Bob Master, Legislative and Political Director of the Communications Workers of America, District One said:
“Reckless use of the filibuster, invisible to most Americans under the current system, has become a critical roadblock to fundamental reforms desperately needed by poor and working people, such as strengthening the rights of workers to join unions or creating a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented workers. At the very least, Democrats must change the Senate rules so that those who seek to thwart the democratic will of the majority are required to do so in the light of day.”
Karen Scharff, Executive Director, Citizen Action of New York said:
“The old filibuster rules have been used to create gridlock and inaction at a time when the country and our state desperately need the Senate to address our struggling economy and our broken democracy. If a Senator feels strongly enough to filibuster, they should be willing to stand up and speak rather than hiding behind obscure procedures.”
Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY said:
“The American people can not suffer through another unproductive Congress in which Senators can virtually phone in their opposition without even showing face. Government must be held accountable, which is why we urge Senator Schumer to support the strongest possible filibuster reform. Currently, our democracy is not serving the people it purports to represent.”