Common Cause

For Immediate Release

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Monday Hearing Set on Challenge to Senate Filibuster

Historic Case Tests Whether Constitution Can Be Thwarted by Senate Rules

WASHINGTON - With the U.S. Senate paralyzed by continuing abuse of its 60-vote rule to end filibusters, a federal judge will hear arguments next week on a Common Cause lawsuit that seeks to have the rule declared unconstitutional and void.

Coming just a few weeks before a new Congress convenes and President Obama is inaugurated for a second term,Common Cause et al. v. Biden et al.asks the third branch of government, the judiciary, to enforce the Constitution, uphold the principle of majority rule, and permit the legislative and executive branches to function as the nation’s framers intended.

WHAT: Federal court hearing in Common Cause v Biden

WHEN: Monday, Dec. 10, 9:30 a.m., followed by 11:30 am press conference at court

WHERE: U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 333 Constitution Ave. NWm Washington, D.C., Courtroom 24A, 4thfloor; Judge Emmett Sullivan presiding

A press conference outside the main entrance to the courthouse on Constitution Avenue will begin after the conclusion of the hearing – approximately 11:30 a.m. Plaintiffs in the case, including U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Mike Michaud (D-MN), Keith Ellison (D-MN), and Hank Johnson (D-GA), have been invited to speak, along with Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

BACKGROUND: Common Cause, four members of the House of Representatives, and three young professionals who live in the U.S. but were born overseas and are being denied a path to American citizenship by repeated Senate filibusters of the DREAM Act, filed suit last May to have the filibuster (Senate Rule XXII) declared unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs argue that the filibuster rule is an accident of history, not included in the Constitution and never contemplated by its drafters. The rule has effectively created a supermajority requirement – 60 of 100 senators – for the consideration and passage of any legislation and violates the constitutional principle of majority rule.

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan is on a Senate motion to dismiss the suit. It is expected to last about an hour.

The Senate is under increasing pressure to reform the filibuster and Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised action when a new Congress convenes next month. The outcome is far from certain however, as opponents of reform have promised a filibuster on any rule change, effectively using the filibuster to preserve the filibuster. The continuing deadlock leaves court action as the only viable alternative for restoring the principle of majority rule and permitting the Senate to function.


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Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

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