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Wed January 5, 2011
NM Senator Tom Udall introduces "filibuster reform" on Senate floor
By Jim Williams
Washington, DC – After months of planning and debate, New Mexico U-S Senator Tom Udall today (Wednesday) presented a resolution to change the rules around the filibuster in the Senate. Udall and other Democrats have said Republicans have been using the filibuster in that chamber to obstruct legislation. His proposed changes include ending so-called "secret holds", which allow a single Senator to block a bill from debate without being named. Udall also wants to end the filibuster on motions to proceed to a vote on legislation. He noted that over the past two years in the Senate, no appropriations bill or budget bill was passed, more than 400 bills that were sent over from the House weren't voted on, and judicial nominations have been held up.
"The American people are fed up with it", Udall said. "They are fed up with us, and I don't blame them. We need to bring the workings of the Senate out of the shadows and restore its accountability."
Republicans say they've had to threaten filibusters because Democrats haven't been allowing them to amend legislation. Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexander said the threat changes behavior in the Senate, adding, "what the filibuster does is say 'you're not gonna pass the Senate anything, anything, unless some Republicans and some Democrats agree, unless you get a consensus'."
Udall's resolution, which has thirteen Democratic co-sponsors, does include a mechanism to guarantee the minority the right to propose amendments to legislation. His measure was introduced Wednesday because all Senate rules must be addressed on the first day of the session. But since there was an objection to the proposal, it can be brought up again when the Senate reconvenes after the Martin Luther King Junior holiday.
Below are the five points of Senator Udall's resolution, as relayed via press release from his office.
Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Proceed: Makes motions to proceed not subject to a filibuster, but provides for two hours of debate. This proposal has had bipartisan support for decades and is often mentioned as a way to end the abuse of holds.
Eliminate Secret Holds: Prohibits one senator from objecting on behalf of another, unless he or she discloses the name of the senator with the objection. This is a simple solution to address a longstanding problem.
Guarantee Consideration of Amendments for both Majority and Minority: Protects the rights of the minority to offer amendments following cloture filing, provided the amendments are germane and have been filed in a timely manner.
Talking Filibuster: Ensures real debate following a failed cloture vote. Senators opposed to proceeding to final passage will be required to continue debate as long as the subject of the cloture vote or an amendment, motion, point of order, or other related matter is the pending business.
Expedite Nominations: Provide for two hours of post-cloture debate time for nominees. Post cloture time is meant for debating and voting on amendments - something that is not possible on nominations. Instead, the minority now requires the Senate use this time simply to prevent it from moving on to other business.