For Immediate Release
Now It’s Official: Leaders Offer More Reaction to Senate’s Missed Opportunity for Real Change
WASHINGTON - Yesterday, the Fix the Senate Now coalition reacted to the agreement between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling it “a missed opportunity to provide meaningful filibuster reform, while advancing some decent procedural improvements,” and offering hope that the “Senate proves our overall skepticism wrong and that the new agreement helps the chamber embark on a productive and deliberative session – the hundreds of thousands of individuals who joined the effort for a more functional U.S. Senate deserve this much.”
Today, leaders and principals involved in the Fix the Senate Now coalition offered further reaction, after the Senate made the agreement official last evening:
- Nan Aron, President of Alliance for Justice: “The agreement announced yesterday inches us toward reforming the rules that have paralyzed the United States Senate, but fails to fully address the pressing need for accountability. The agreement does take a step that may ease the shortage of judges in our federal courts, a shortage that denies justice to thousands of Americans every year. We will be watching closely over the next two years to see if this agreement leads to meaningful change.
- Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club: “Though some of these proposed changes move us in the right direction, the Senate has missed a real opportunity to clear the way for real reform and real progress for the American people. On behalf of the Sierra Club’s 2.1 million members and supporters, we will continue the fight to not just fix the Senate, but to get polluter money out of politics and protect our democracy for all citizens, so that solutions to our nation’s most pressing problems – from the climate crisis to job creation – no longer take a back seat to needless obstructionism.
- Larry Cohen, President of the Communications Workers of America (CWA): “This deal is a missed opportunity to move forward or even ensure debate on the critical issues facing our nation. In recent years, the Senate has failed to discuss, debate, or vote on measures that affect jobs, workers' rights, health care, campaign financing, immigration, and the list goes on and on. For members of our union, and progressives throughout the nation, the failure to enact substantial reform of the senate rules almost guarantees that for two more years, there will not be effective debate, discussion or voting on even the critical issues that the Obama Administration has outlined. The changes proposed may well make the Senate more efficient when it comes to nominations, including the record number of judicial vacancies. But, the Democracy Initiative that CWA helped launch must continue at full speed. The toxic combination of senate rules, money and politics, obstacles to voting rights, and no path to citizenship for millions of immigrants all add up to continued control by the one percent, and a declining standard of living for the rest of us. Today, we are more committed than ever to building a movement for real change. Our coalition is stronger than ever. Through the work of our activists and allies, we created the opportunity for change. We will continue to work to achieve the democracy we all deserve.
- Bob Edgar, President of Common Cause: My friend Harry Reid, the senator from Searchlight, NV, went missing yesterday in the fight for filibuster reform. The ‘compromise’ he has reached with Sen. McConnell is actually a capitulation. It allows individual senators to continue blocking debate and action by the entire body and to do so without explaining themselves to their colleagues or the American people. This is not the Senate of debate and deliberation our founders envisioned. I invite senators who remain committed to reform to join Common Cause in our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule. The President does not have the power to fix this problem and the Senate clearly won’t fix it; we must turn to the judicial branch to enforce the Constitution.
- Diana Kasdan, Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice: “Yesterday, the Senate once again squandered its best chance this session for meaningful filibuster reform. Recent Brennan Center research documents the dramatic increase in Senate obstruction in recent years and the urgent need to curb this dysfunction. Yesterday’s agreement, while offering minor procedural changes that could expedite legislation, does nothing to alter the abuse of silent, costless, filibusters to block votes on legislation. The public’s strong support of filibuster reform showed the American people wanted, expected, and deserved more. We are encouraged by the strong leadership shown by several of the Senate's veteran and newest members, especially Senators Merkley, Udall, and Harkin, and we will continue to work with them to implement common sense reforms so the Senate can address the critical issues facing our nation.
- Bob King, President of the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW): “Our country cannot afford another two years of paralysis and inaction because of obstruction by right-wing Republicans in the Senate. Nearly 400 bills have been filibustered during Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s tenure, and we cannot allow this to continue. Congress must implement President Obama’s agenda and address immigration reform, income inequality, persistent unemployment, climate change and a host of additional pressing issues. The serious challenges facing our country demand the restoration of a functioning democratic institution, and we are deeply concerned that bipartisan reforms passed by the Senate will not restore accountability and end abuse of the filibuster. We urge the Senate to enact substantive rules reform so our nation can move forward. We will continue to demand accountability and action from our elected representatives.
And finally, all of us in the Fix the Senate Now coalition want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the courageous champions of real reform, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). We also want to thank the Senators who stepped forward to cosponsor the more far-reaching reforms in Senate Resolution 4: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Begich (D-AK), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Jon Tester (D-MT), Mark Warner (D-VA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).
Before the start of the 112th Congress, in December 2010 and January 2011, the Alliance for Justice, the Brennan Center, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Common Cause, the Sierra Club, United Auto Workers (UAW) and Voices for Progress led a broad coalition of progressive organizations, dubbed Fix the Senate Now, to support the Senate rules reform effort championed by Senators Merkley, Udall, and Harkin.
Recognizing that the modest “gentlemen’s agreement” package of reforms agreed to at the start of this Congress hasn’t changed the rampant obstructionism in the Senate, the Fix the Senate Now coalition is re-engaging, making the case that substantial Senate rules reform in the next Congress is still needed.