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 Keiko HironoTop general says Iran complying with nuclear deal Live coverage: Sanders rolls out single-payer bill Where Dems stand on Sanders's single-payer bill MORE (D-Hawaii) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampWells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Red-state Dems need more from Trump before tax embrace 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 UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallOvernight Energy: Trump temporarily lifts shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico relief New Mexico Gov: GOP health care bill 'still needs some work' Dems ask FEC to create new rules in response to Russian Facebook ads MORE (N.M.) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Dems take on Trump's chemical safety pick Dem senator slams Trump for dedicating golf trophy to hurricane victims Dem senator compares Trump to Marie Antoinette 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 Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy 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 CardinOvernight Cybersecurity: Equifax CEO faces outraged lawmakers | Dem presses voting machine makers on cyber defense | Yahoo says 3 billion accounts affected by 2013 breach Key Dem: Did Kushner use private emails to talk with foreign governments? Dem senator pitches ideas for gun control after shooting MORE (D-Md.), Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Crying on TV doesn't qualify Kimmel to set nation's gun agenda Trump knocks ‘fake’ news coverage of his trip to Puerto Rico MORE (D-N.Y.), Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChildren’s health-care bill faces new obstacles Overnight Health Care: Schumer calls for tying ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance | Puerto Rico's water woes worsen | Dems plead for nursing home residents' right to sue Schumer calls for attaching ObamaCare fix to children's health insurance MORE (R-Tenn.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems lambaste Trump’s ‘outrageous’ EPA chemical safety pick Overnight Regulation: EPA misses smog rule deadline | Search is on for new HHS chief | ACLU sues over abortion pill restrictions | Justices weigh gerrymandering Price resignation sets off frenzy of speculation over replacement 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 Trevor HeinrichThe Hill's 12:30 Report New Mexico Gov: GOP health care bill 'still needs some work' Dems ask FEC to create new rules in response to Russian Facebook ads 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 KaineTimothy Michael KaineAuthorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient Week ahead: Crunch time for defense bill’s cyber reforms | Equifax under scrutiny Insurer Anthem to cover bare ObamaCare counties in Virginia 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 Suzanne BaldwinKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Justices weigh partisan gerrymandering in potential landmark case Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada MORE (D-Wis.), who replaced Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.).

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Dems plan to make gun control an issue in Nevada Agricultural trade demands investment in MAP and FMD 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 KingSenate confirms No. 2 spot at HHS, days after Price resigns Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy Mattis: Staying in Iran deal is of US national security interest 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 MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Murphy faces criticism from GOP challenger over fundraising email Democrat: Republicans who believe in more gun control afraid of being 'politically punished' 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 Ann WarrenOvernight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Michelle Obama is exactly who the Democrats need to win big in 2020 Wells Fargo chief defends bank's progress in tense Senate hearing 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.”