Cohen: We Need Senate Rules Reform

CWA President Cohen wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post this week explaining the need for senate rules reform, which can be read in its entirety here.

Here's an excerpt:

Without reform, we've witnessed 386 silent filibusters during Sen. Harry Reid's six years as majority leader. Lyndon B. Johnson served six years as Senate majority leader with one filibuster.

In the past six years, a number of critical bills suffered silent deaths. Lacking 60 votes, the DISCLOSE Act, which would have increased transparency for independent groups' campaign spending, died without discussion. Senate Republicans blocked the Bring Jobs Home Act, an insourcing bill that would have ended tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. A minority of senators also prevented debate on the Veterans Jobs Corp Act, which would have created new job-training programs in targeted fields like conservation and firefighting. The DREAM Act was blocked despite overwhelming popular and Senate support for the children of immigrants. The Employee Free Choice Act and climate change legislation both came very close to 60 votes, but fell short. These and too many other critical issues couldn't get even a minute of debate on the Senate floor.

The constitutional option isn't unusual. It's not radical or even partisan. In fact, each time the filibuster rule has been amended — most recently in 1975 — reformers used the constitutional option at the start of a new session to compel the Senate to act. Both Richard Nixon and Robert Byrd have argued in favor of using this parliamentary procedure.

On Jan. 3, that small window of opportunity to exercise the constitutional option will again open. Our democracy can't afford to wait another two years. We have by far the most expensive Senate campaigns ever, with the 2012 election spending approaching $743 million. Yet only weeks later, we could again be facing a Senate that does practically nothing that Americans voted for and debates few issues of the day.