A pair of proposals to expedite the Senate’s voting procedures and eliminate filibusters landed before the chamber’s Rules Committee on Wednesday as part of an ongoing strategy by Democrats to keep pressure on Republicans.
One of the Senate’s newest members, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), introduced an idea to reduce a mandatory period of debate, eliminate filibusters on procedural motions, end secret holds and require Senators to speak in person on the chamber floor if they launch a filibuster.
One of the Senate’s longest-serving members, Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), meanwhile, has submitted a parallel bill that would expedite procedural motions, allow immediate votes on cloture petitions under some circumstances and allow for quicker votes once cloture has been invoked.
Democrats have been repeatedly frustrated by the GOP on a number of procedural motions during the current Congress, such as a procedural motion on a campaign-finance reform bill that was blocked on Tuesday. Current rules require 60 votes for successful procedural motions; the Disclose Act on Tuesday only received 57.
Republicans are opposing efforts at filibuster reform in order to preserve their power as the Senate’s minority party and have argued that Democratic leaders won’t work with them on legislation.
Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), an author of the Disclose Act, said at Wednesday’s hearing that he understands the reticence by the GOP. Yet he insisted reform is needed.
“Each side has legitimate points,” Schumer said. “Democrats say it’s ‘delay, delay, delay’ on trivial things, and Republicans say, ‘We have no choice but to delay because we’re not being given an opportunity to offer amendments because in general the majority party controls the agenda.’ We’re trying to be fair and down-the-middle on this.”
The committee has held three hearings so far on the need for filibuster reform, with Schumer arguing that the legislative tactic has exploded in recent years. From 1951 to 1960, there was an average of one filibuster and only four cloture votes during each two-year Congress. In 2009 alone, there were 25 filibusters and 39 cloture votes.