Common Cause

For Immediate Release

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Common Cause Urges Senators to Reject "Handshake Deal" on Filibuster

WASHINGTON - A filibuster “compromise” that takes the form of a handshake deal and allows the minority to obstruct action effortlessly would continue the Senate’s march toward irrelevance and deliver another two years of partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, Common Cause said today.

"At a minimum, Senate rules should require that those seeking to block legislation be required to stand up and explain their position – and keep explaining it until they persuade a majority to join them or run out of things to say," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

"It’s distressing to hear that the so-called reform in the works would preserve the 'silent filibuster,' allowing the minority to kill bills simply by sending an email or making a phone call," Edgar added.

Edgar said Common Cause is proceeding "full speed ahead" on its lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the filibuster rule; he urged senators involved in the reform effort to join in the litigation. "We remain convinced that a simple majority – 51 votes – is all that’s required to pass most legislation in the Senate," he said.

A federal judge in Washington dismissed the suit last month, ruling that Common Cause and other plaintiffs, including four members of the House of Representatives, lacked legal standing to pursue the case; the addition of senators to the list of plaintiffs could produce a different result, Edgar asserted.

"We’ve already filed our notice of appeal," Edgar noted. "We believe that in a trial on the merits, we can demonstrate that the filibuster rule violates the Constitution by establishing a 60-vote threshold for the Senate to conduct even routine business. That is emphatically not what the framers of the Constitution intended.

"President Obama outlined an ambitious agenda for the nation on Monday, one that deserves serious consideration by the entire Congress,” Edgar added. “Senators who oppose his initiatives, or any alternatives their colleagues in Congress might propose, should be required to engage in actual debates and then vote to decide the question. The filibuster should not be allowed to continue as the Senate’s silent killer.


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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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