Washington, DC – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is working to advance a substantive package of Senate rules reforms and is prepared to use the constitutional option to enact reform, if necessary. As the Senate rules reform battle moves toward resolution next week, it is clear that key observers and the public alike want Senator Reid’s efforts to lead to substantial reform of the Senate. Among the key developments this week:
Outside Observers Agree Senate Needs Fixing: Experts, commentators, scholars, and coalition leaders from Fix the Senate Now are making the case that we need to seize the opportunity to reform the Senate:
- Tom Brokaw on “Morning Joe” on MSNBC: “[T]here is a new will to take on some of the obstacles of getting anything done in the U.S. Senate and beginning with the filibuster rules, about how they change that. The minority can't hold a majority hostage every time something comes to the floor.”
- Arkansas Democrat-Gazette op-ed by law professor Joshua Silverstein: “The modern overuse of the filibuster has nearly ground the Senate to a halt. The chamber spends so much time dealing with obstruction that it has little time left over to actually debate legislative issues or move forward on qualified judicial nominees. Currently, the Senate is considering reforms to limit abuse of the filibuster, and I encourage the support of both of our senators.”
- Boston Review piece from Charles Fried, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Frederick A.O. Schwarz, Chief Counsel of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law: “[C]oncerns over changing the rules mid-stride are not at issue when rules are modified as the first order of business in a new Senate. Unfortunately, this false debate has created a myth that if the 113th Senate changes the rules with a majority vote, it will forever unlock the door to other rules changes by future Senates. But that door was never locked. And while the Senate has only opened that door judiciously and infrequently, it was, and is, always available.”
- CWA President Larry Cohen interview on “Moyers and Company”: “Cohen is a leader of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of nearly 50 progressive organizations campaigning hard to change the filibuster rules -- not to deny a minority the right to be heard, but to hold Senators accountable by bringing back the requirement that they show up in person and talk in plain sight, so we can know who’s holding democracy hostage. But time is not on their side. Unless the Senate reforms the filibuster on Tuesday, the minority wrecking crew remains in charge for the next two years.”
- Diana Kasdan, Counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice, on the “Thom Hartman Show”:““We are really hopeful that what we’re going to see is the Merkley proposal or very close to it, and that has the talking filibuster. And I have to say, there is such public support for that. There is support in the Senate itself among many veteran and new Senators, but today there were nearly a million signed petitions delivered to senators saying that Americans want this kind of reform.”
- The Hill op-ed from CWA President Cohen and Deepak Bhargava, Executive Director of the Center for Community Change on link between Senate reform and passing immigration reform: “If the Senate does not pass real filibuster reform, our potential for winning meaningful change that truly addresses the dreams of millions of families will be curtailed. There are more than 11 million lives hanging in the balance.”
Campaign Activities Engage the Public’s Voice on Behalf of Senate Reform: The Fix the Senate Now campaign ramped-up campaign activities this week, including a Day of Action in support of reform. Activities included:
- Fix the Senate Now delivered close to one million petition signatures to 16 Senate offices as part of the Day of Action. This included petitions with more than half a million signatures to Senate Majority Leader Reid demonstrating that the public has his back on real Senate reform.
- The coalition has generated more than 75,000 phone contacts to Senate offices from Americans demanding real rules reform – numbers likely to grow in the wake of emails like this one sent yesterday by 36 organizations encouraging members to call their senators.
- A $300,000 paid media campaign launched by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) on behalf of Senate rules reform, including this television ad, “The U.S. Senate is Broken – But We Can Fix It.” Already seen on during The Daily Show and the Colbert Report, the ads also are scheduled to run during this Sunday’s morning network news broadcasts.
- Earlier this week, key Senate reform champions Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) joined with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and the Daily Kos community on a petition in favor of real Senate reform.
- CWA also launched a petition drive via “takeover” advertising on the Huffington Post Politics site, gathering signatures and comments from Americans calling for the end of the silent filibuster. Since its launch, the effort has generated signatures and comments from over 8,000 Americans. The following are comments from petition signers across the country:
- Doristene, AR: “If they feel that the issue is that important, they should stand before the American people and explain why.”
- Paul, CA: “Make the Senate productive again; stop playing games.”
- Mary, DE: “We need more transparency. The silent filibuster makes it difficult to see who or what group is not allowing things to go to a vote.”
- Marcus, MT: “If [they] need to stop a bill is that great, a Senator should have to get up and tells us why, with enough conviction to stay there and keep talking.”
- Richard, NV: “The silent filibuster makes it too easy to obstruct a bill while hiding the obstructor. If a Senator has a reason to stop a bill from passing, let him state his reasons and not hide his identity.”
- Caroline, NY: “People deserve to know who is responsible for a filibuster and their reason/explanation for filibuster.”
- Kevin, NY: “The silent filibuster and the anonymous hold are both badly-abused tactics that have outlived their purpose and now serve only to impede the work of the Senate. I urge the elimination of both.”
- Mark, NY: Senators should have the courage to stand up there and express their opinion rather than hide behind a procedural shield.”
- Thomas, RI: “Plain and simple it is undemocratic, never mind that it undermines the work of the country to be able to move forward.”
Fix the Senate Now Presence Over Inaugural Weekend: The Fix the Senate Now coalition also will make its presence felt during inaugural weekend. Efforts include Fix the Senate Now stickers being deployed at inaugural events and online advertising targeted at major inaugural hotels. Users accessing mobile applications while attending inaugural events will also see the ads. See examples and further details here.
Visit www.fixthesenatenow.org for more information