Senate Dem freshmen want party to back 'talking filibuster'

Senate Dem freshmen want party to back 'talking filibuster'

Most of the new class of Senate Democratic freshmen say filibuster reform should require senators to actually hold the floor and debate if they want to block legislation.

Seven new Democrats voiced support Thursday for instituting the so-called talking filibuster rule as the core component of reform.

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Of the nine newest senators to join the Senate Democratic Conference, only Sens. Mazie HironoMazie HironoWeakened patent system causes U.S. to slip as a global leader of IP protection If our innovators have no reward, how will America compete? Three Dem senators call for 'immediate review' of Kushner's security clearance MORE (D-Hawaii) and Heidi HeitkampHeidi HeitkampTrump's Democratic tax dilemma It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him The real litmus test is whether pro-life democrats vote for pro-life legislation MORE (D-N.D.) declined to explicitly support the talking filibuster.

Overhauling the rules has boiled down to an intergenerational debate within the Senate Democratic caucus.

Old bulls such as Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl LevinCarl LevinPresident Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Republicans can learn from John McCain’s heroism Trump and GOP wise to keep tax reform and infrastructure separate MORE (D-Mich.) favor more modest reform and have recruited Republicans to press for a negotiated solution.

Junior Democrats, including Sens. Tom UdallTom UdallWhat veterans have to lose in Trump’s national monument review Overnight Energy: House passes Russia sanctions deal with oil, gas fix Dem bill would ban controversial pesticide MORE (N.M.) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyPresident Trump, listen to candidate Trump and keep Volcker Rule Senators push federal prisons to expand compassionate release Senate confirms Trump's new FBI director MORE (Ore.), say unless lawmakers are required to sustain live floor debates, the chamber will remain gridlocked most of the time. They favor using the nuclear option, which they call the “constitutional option,” to effect this change through a simple majority vote. But they need 51 of the 55 members of the Senate Democratic Conference to back them.

“The heart of the matter is the talking filibuster,” Udall said.

Levin gained momentum late last month when he and seven colleagues introduced a bipartisan proposal to reform Senate procedures.

His plan would allow a senator to require 60 votes to set up final passage of a bill by raising an objection. It would, however, make it easier for the majority leader to take up new business by restricting filibusters on motions to proceed.

It would also make it easier for the leader to bring legislation to conference negotiations with the House and move lower-level executive- and judicial-branch nominees.

Levin has enlisted the support of Sen. John McCainJohn McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (R-Ariz.), as well as Sens. Mark PryorMark PryorMedicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation Ex-Sen. Kay Hagan joins lobby firm MORE (D-Ark.), Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinCongress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Don’t let Congress amend the First Amendment Federal anti-BDS legislation – Common sense and constitutional MORE (D-Md.), Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDemocrats urge Trump to condemn Charlottesville violence Melania Trump on Charlottesville protests: 'No good comes from violence' It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-N.Y.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderTrump to make ObamaCare payments to insurers for August CBO: ObamaCare premiums could rise 20 percent if Trump ends payments CBO to release report Tuesday on ending ObamaCare insurer payments MORE (R-Tenn.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoLacking White House plan, Senate focuses on infrastructure Effective climate protection means better policy and harnessing market forces GOP senators move to bolster border security, crack down on immigration MORE (R-Wyo.).

Udall and Merkley on Thursday introduced their own resolution to reform the Senate. The biggest difference is that their plan would force senators who filibuster to actually speak on the floor and allow the majority leader to call for a simple majority vote on the pending business once the debate stops.

Their proposal would also eliminate filibusters on motions to proceed, reduce debate time on executive- and judicial-branch nominees — except for Supreme Court nominees — and bar filibusters on motions to go to conference.

They received reinforcements Thursday when nine new Democratic senators took the oath of office. Most of them agree with Udall and Merkley that reform should require lawmakers seeking to block action to argue for their reasons in front of C-SPAN cameras.

“Preserving the rights of the minority is important, but I think it’s too easy, if you don’t actually have to do a 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'-style filibuster, it’s too easy to be abused,” said Sen. Martin HeinrichMartin HeinrichWhat veterans have to lose in Trump’s national monument review Senators fight proposed tariffs on solar panels Economy adds impressive 209K jobs in July MORE (D) after taking the oath of office to represent New Mexico. “I think the filibuster should be preserved but it should be a talking filibuster where you actually have to go to the floor and preserve the floor.”

“I feel like talking filibuster is what enables your colleagues and the American public to know whether you’re interposing some reason for delay or you’re just interested in delay for delay’s sake,” said Sen. Tim KaineTim Kaine Violent white nationalist protests prompt state of emergency in Virginia Republicans will get their comeuppance in New Jersey, Virginia Spicer signs deal with top TV lawyer: report MORE (D-Va.), before participating in a swearing-in ceremony with Vice President Biden.

Senate Democrats have filed over 380 motions to end filibusters since capturing the majority in 2006, although Republicans argue many of these were filed before giving them a chance to discuss possible compromises to move forward. 

The Levin-McCain proposal urges party leaders and senior senators managing floor business not to honor objections from lawmakers who are not present on the floor — but junior Democrats who favor reform say this does not go far enough.

“The McCain-Levin proposal does nothing to take on the secret silent filibuster that is haunting this body,” Merkley told reporters Thursday.

He argues that Democratic and Republican leaders tried to establish a gentlemen’s agreement to reduce obstruction at the start of the 112th Congress in early 2011 but it did not work. He says a rule change is necessary.

Merkley and Udall have talked to many of the Senate Democratic freshmen since the election to shore up their support.

“The talking filibuster is still very much on the table. Ask the new ones coming in what they feel about it,” Udall said.

“I’ve been speaking with them. I am very supportive of reform and feel like this talking filibuster is exactly what the rule was designed to do historically,” said Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinClub for Growth endorses Nicholson in Wisconsin GOP primary Senate Dems unveil trade agenda Group pushes FDA to act on soy milk labeling petition MORE (D-Wis.), who replaced Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoe DonnellyTrump's Democratic tax dilemma FEC 'reform' a smokescreen to weaponize government against free speech It's time for McConnell to fight with Trump instead of against him MORE (D-Ind.), who did not sign onto a petition to “fix the broken Senate” before Election Day, also voiced support for the talking filibuster.

“One of the things I’ve always said back home in Indiana — if you want to get credit for something, you ought to earn it,” he said. “If you want to get up and declare filibuster, you ought to have to do it.

“You have to earn it,” he said.

Sen. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingSen. King: If Trump fires Mueller, Congress would pass veto-proof special prosecutor statute Senate heading for late night ahead of ObamaCare repeal showdown Overnight Healthcare: Four GOP senators threaten to block 'skinny' repeal | Healthcare groups blast skinny repeal | GOP single-payer amendment fails in Senate MORE (Maine), an Independent who will caucus with the Democrats, said it would be “preferable” for filibuster reform to include the talking filibuster. He said it is also important to allow the minority party the ability to offer and vote on amendments, even if they might put members of the majority in political discomfort.

“At the very least, if you’re going to try to filibuster a bill, you should stand on the floor and show to the American public what you’re for and what you’re against,” said Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDem senator: Trump team has no idea how to handle North Korea crisis Trump admin not opposed to new war authorization Dem senator: Trump has sent signal that Russia has free rein MORE (D-Conn.), who has taken former Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) seat. “I want the strongest filibuster reform. I’m going to support the efforts of Sens. Merkley and Udall.”

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren: Education Dept lawyer may have violated conflict-of-interest laws Congress should think twice on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act Sanders plans to introduce single-payer bill in September MORE (D-Mass.) said she, too, wants filibuster reform to require senators to hold the floor to block bills.

Hirono and Heitkamp were the least explicit. 

“She broadly supports the goal of filibuster reform but is reviewing the proposals on the table,” said a spokesman for Hirono.

Heitkamp said, “I’m not sure yet. I haven’t had a chance to get a complete brief.”