Sen. Bernie Sanders said today he strongly supports long-overdue filibuster reform to stop a single senator without explanation from forcing an extraordinary majority of 60 votes to advance legislation. “This country faces enormous problems in terms of jobs, global warming, health care, campaign finance reform, deficit reduction and many other important issues. The Senate has been blocked from considering many of these and other major issues of our day by a stubborn minority’s abuse of a rule originally designed to guarantee debate, not silence it,” Sanders said.
“We were brought up to believe that in our democracy the majority rules. In the United States Senate, unfortunately, on virtually every piece of major legislation the majority does not rule. Only a supermajority rules. Republicans have used parliamentary delaying tactics and demanded 60 votes to even debate bills, let alone pass legislation,” Sanders added.
The once rare delaying tactic has become commonplace. Throughout the time when Lyndon Johnson was the Senate majority leader in the 1950s, there was one filibuster waged in an attempt to block civil rights legislation. In the past six years since Democrats regained the Senate majority, they have been forced to try to end silent filibusters on 390 separate occasions.
Sanders supports a so-called talking filibuster. With the support of 51 senators such a change in Senate procedure would force opponents of a bill to stand up on the Senate floor and explain their reasons, at length if they desired, for opposing a bill. The change would put an end to the current practice of routinely requiring a 60-vote majority to even consider a bill through the exercise of a silent objection.
“In the Senate we must protect minority rights and members should have as much time as they need to make their arguments but they must be willing to come to the Senate floor and make their case. The Senate is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body. Our rules must let us deliberate, not obstruct,” Sanders said.
Filibuster reform is being considered this week as the Senate prepares to adopt rules governing for the new 113th Session of Congress. A formal vote on new rules has been delayed for days, however, by a filibuster.