As Senators Highlight Continued Filibuster Abuse, Leaders & Experts Condemn Unprecedented Obstructionism as Bad for Democracy

For Immediate Release

Democracy Rules
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As Senators Highlight Continued Filibuster Abuse, Leaders & Experts Condemn Unprecedented Obstructionism as Bad for Democracy

Press Call and Senate Hearing to Highlight Unprecedented Levels of Obstructionism & Derailing of Democratic Process

WASHINGTON - As
the U.S. Senate this week anticipates another filibuster over the
Department of Defense authorization bill and upcoming filibusters over
President Obama’s middle class tax cuts, leading policy advocates and
congressional experts today hosted a telephonic press conference to
highlight the runaway usage of Senate filibusters and their role in
derailing our democratic process and prioritizing corporate special
interests over progress.  

“The level of
obstructionism we are currently witnessing is unprecedented in American
history,” said George Kohl, Senior Director for Policy at Communications
Workers of America. “The filibuster promotes gridlock, stalls our
democracy, and blocks important and necessary work on appropriations and
other legislation."

Today’s call set the
stage for a Senate Rules Committee hearing tomorrow, chaired by Senator
Charles Schumer (D-NY), that will feature the testimony of Senators Tom
Harkin (D-IA) and Tom Udall (D-NM) discussing the unprecedented levels
of filibuster abuse this Congress and its related consequences on the
democratic process.

“Filibusters aren’t
about democracy,” said Carl Pope, Executive Chairman of the Sierra Club.
“They’re about special interests flexing their power. An overwhelming
number of Americans want our country to build a clean energy economy,
but they don’t hold the same sway as the coal and oil industry when it
comes to asking their allies to filibuster a bill.”

Though the Senate
averaged approximately one filibuster a year until 1970, Senators in the
past two sessions have used this obstructionist tactic roughly 70 times
per year, derailing popular legislation, securing sweetheart deals and
pork projects, and making it impossible for the administration to get
senior agency managers and judicial nominees confirmed.

By abusing this
loophole in Senate procedures and favoring the interests of a few over
the majority, this unprecedented obstructionism is harming the Senate’s
right to seek meaningful compromise and votes on legislation.

 

Filibuster by the Numbers

1919-1960

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Cloture motions filed 27 times

108th Congress: 2003-04

Democrat minority

Cloture motions filed 62 times

109th Congress: 2000-06

Democrat minority

Cloture motions filed 68 times

110th Congress: 2007-08

Republican minority

Cloture motions filed 139 times

111th Congress: 2009-present

Republican minority

Cloture motions filed 118 times*

* Since the 111th Congress is still in session, this number is not the final count.

The recent upswing
in filibuster usage is surprising, given the Founding Fathers’ attempts
to limit supermajority requirements to a few specific items.

“A review of the Constitution will show that the filibuster was never a part of the Framers’ plan,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Executive
Director of the American Constitution Society. “The filibuster is a
Senate-created procedure, and has no basis in the Constitution or
American history.”

Recently, millions
of unemployed Americans felt the consequences of this political
obstructionism first-hand when the Senate failed to renew jobless
benefits in a timely manner because of multiple Republican filibusters. 

“Honest and
accountable government starts with an open democratic process, including
the ability to vote on legislation,” said Bob Edgar, President of
Common Cause. “Deliberation and debate have given way to complete
obstruction, all at the expense of American voters.”

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