11 former Democratic senators call for ‘meaningful reform to Senate rules’

The U.S. Senate is seen from the East Front Plaza on Thursday, October 7, 2021.
Greg Nash

A group of 11 former Democratic U.S. senators voiced their support for Senate rule reform in an op-ed published on Tuesday, saying reform was necessary “if the Senate is to properly function.”

Former Democratic Sens. Tom Daschle (S.D.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), Byron Dorgan (N.D.), Bob Graham (Fla.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Doug Jones (Ala.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Mark Begich (Alaska) added their names to a Medium piece posted by Jones.

Though they refrained from outright calling for the filibuster to be eliminated, the former U.S. lawmakers wrote that rules like the filibuster “have clearly become weaponized legislative tools for obstruction rather than progress.”

“The signers of this op-ed are not in accord on whether to eliminate the procedural mechanism of the filibuster entirely,” they said. “We do agree, however, that meaningful reform to Senate rules is necessary if the filibuster is to continue and if the Senate is to properly function, especially to protect free and fair elections.”

They lamented how amendments “have become a rare rather than regular practice” as well as how debates in the Senate have become curtailed by existing rules.

“If the Senate cannot even begin to debate and vote on something as foundational as voting rights, we must reform Senate rules and restore the chamber to its rightful place as ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body,'” they wrote.

Late last year, Republicans used the 60-vote hurdle currently in place in the Senate to block two of Democrats’ voting rights bills: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced on Tuesday that Senate Democrats will force a vote this week to change the rules and enact a talking filibuster in an attempt to pass voting rights legislation.

“If the Senate cannot protect the right to vote which is the cornerstone of our democracy, then the rules must be reformed. … If the Republicans block cloture on the legislation before us, I will put forward a proposal to change the rules to allow for a talking filibuster on this legislation,” he said.

Under the proposed rule change, opponents would need to speak on the Senate floor in order to delay a voting rights bill. Once they are done speaking, the bills would then be able to pass in a simple majority. The talking filibuster would only be in place for voting legislation, leaving the 60-vote hurdle in place for other bills.

Tags Bob Graham Charles Schumer Chuck Schumer doug jones Doug Jones For the People Act Heidi Heitkamp Heidi Heitkamp John Lewis John Lewis Voting Rights Act Kent Conrad Mark Begich Mark Pryor Mark Udall Mary Landrieu Tom Daschle
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