WASHINGTON, July 16 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today welcomed an agreement that clears the way for long-stalled confirmation votes on several of President Barack Obama’s nominees but he warned that more must be done to end gridlock in “a seriously dysfunctional Senate.”
“I am pleased that an agreement has been reached in which President Obama finally will get Senate confirmation votes on his nominees to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Department of Labor and the Environmental Protection Agency. This agreement also provides that new nominees for the National Labor Relations Board will be rapidly confirmed,” Sanders said.
“While this addresses an immediate need for the president of the United States to have his Cabinet and other senior officials confirmed, we should be clear that the agreement only addresses one symptom of a seriously dysfunctional U.S. Senate,” Sanders added.
“The issue that now must be addressed is how we create a process in the Senate which allows us to respond to the very serious needs of the American people in a timely and effective way. The United States Senate cannot function with any degree of effectiveness if a super-majority of 60 votes is needed to pass virtually any piece of legislation and huge amounts of time are wasted eating up the clock with parliamentary tactics meant only to delay for delay’s sake. Now is the time for real Senate rules reform.”
Historically, filibusters were extremely rare. The Senate operated under an understanding that only in unusual circumstances would a rule be invoked requiring 60 senators to cut off debate. Since President Obama has been in the White House, however, filibusters have become commonplace.
Having once spoken on the Senate floor for eight and one-half hours against extending Bush-era tax breaks for the wealthy, Sanders respects the rights of the minority. “In my view, if a senator or a group of senators are strenuously opposed to legislation they have the right and duty to come to the floor and, for as long as they want, engage in a talking filibuster by explaining to the American people the reasons for their objection. They should not, however, continue to have the right to abuse arcane Senate rules to block a majority of senators from acting on behalf of the American people,” he said.
“Most Americans grew up believing that in America the majority rules. That is not the case in the Senate,” Sanders said in making the case for broader filibuster reform. “The Senate is not the House and the minority party must be treated with respect and given the opportunity to offer amendments and make their case in opposition. A minority must not, however, be allowed to permanently obstruct the wishes of the majority. That is not democracy. That is a perversion of democracy.”