Target: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Goal: Prevent legislative gridlock by enacting better and more meaningful filibuster reform
The filibuster today is a shadow of what our founding fathers intended. Although it has become easier to break (it used to be unbreakable, then only with two-thirds majority, and now three-fifths), it is even easier to accomplish. All that is needed is an intent to filibuster, and the legislative process grinds to a halt. No long-winded speeches to take up time are needed. In fact, the filibustering Senator doesn’t even need to be in attendance. These changes have led to an exponential growth in the use of the filibuster, which has led to partisan gridlock that has paralyzed our nation’s legislative process. Because of this, there is massive support behind Congressional filibuster reform. Recently, a deal was struck between Senate party leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell to expedite some Congressional processes, a measure they are calling a filibuster deal, but none of the major filibuster issues are addressed. These minor changes are highly unlikely to usher in an era of Congressional effectiveness, and Harry Reid must recognize that unless something changes, he is in for two more years of the same ineffectiveness that has led to Congress’s terribly low approval rating.
The deal that was reached will expedite some Congressional procedures. The ability of lawmakers to add unrelated amendments to legislation to slow Senate business has been limited, as has their ability to prevent bills from coming to the floor. More power is given to the minority party in terms of which amendments will be permitted to be attached to the legislation once it sees the floor (a major gripe of the Republicans in the last Congressional session). Confirmation processes for district judges and some executive-branch appointments have also been expedited, but this is where the list of “pros” ends. Senators still will not be held accountable for their filibuster by having to take up time on the floor; they still even have the option to filibuster in abstentia. And Senators can still stop up the process with a filibuster any time after the bill reaches the floor.
The fact that these major flaws remain is unacceptable. The minority party needs to be able to make its voice heard, but it cannot be allowed to stop Congressional progress in its tracks because it does not agree with the agenda of the party in majority. Not only this, but members of the minority party need to be held accountable for stopping up the legislative process. They should be allowed to filibuster, but they should have to work for it.
By signing the petition below you will urge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to reconsider these lackluster reforms, and make meaningful steps towards making the U.S. Congress a functioning body again.
Dear Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid,
The inaction and ineffectiveness in the Senate must be fixed. The recent filibuster deal you reached with Mitch McConnell is unacceptable. It does not make any meaningful changes to the existing problems with the excessive use of the filibuster, and if nothing changes it looks like we are in for two more years of a dysfunctional legislative body.
Not only is the use of the filibuster extreme, but there is no accountability for its use. Please put forward a more meaningful plan that addresses these issues. This means no more filibustering in absentia, and no more filibustering without actually having to take up time on the floor. I am not asking to get rid of the filibuster, but if a Senator would like to stop a bill in its tracks, he or she should have to earn it.
I am urging you to keep pushing for filibuster reform. Please take action to help fix the legislative body’s ineffectiveness.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Isante Magazine via Flickr