CWA, Progressive Allies Relaunch Filibuster Reform Coalition

CWA and its progressive allies are reuniting an advocacy coalition to build support for substantive Senate rules reforms at the start of the 113th Congress.

CWA, Alliance for Justice, Brennan Center for Justice, Common Cause, Sierra Club, and United Auto Workers will continue the work begun in 2010 when Democratic Sens. Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley and Tom Harkin led an effort to overhaul the filibuster:

Facing unparalleled challenges — a languid economic recovery, crushing debt, and threats at home and abroad — the country cannot afford another two years of inaction fostered by outmoded and broken legislative institutions.

In recent decades, Senate conventions have devolved to remove incentives for bipartisan comity, collegiality, and compromise. Whereas Senators once resorted to filibustering only in rare and exceptional instances of intense opposition, rampant obstruction has now transformed standard operating procedure. Today, majority rule in the Senate is the exception, not the rule.

We believe that common sense reforms will end routine and reflexive obstruction and will ensure that the Senate will once again be able to address the critical issues facing our country.

After the announcement, CWA President Larry Cohen told that Reid's reforms won't immediately allow the labor movement to pass priorities like the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). In 2009, the GOP used a filibuster to prevented EFCA from being debated on the Senate floor despite majority support. But that doesn't mean the reforms wouldn't do some good, he said. explained:

Merely forcing the Senate to debate bills, rather than being able to filibuster up front, would be in the public interest.

"It's not so much about what are we going to enact," Cohen said, noting that Republicans control the House anyway. "It's about, is the Senate going to discuss anything?"

Forcing Republicans to talk while filibustering would focus attention on their opposition to popular measures, like the DREAM Act. "They'd actually have to say: 'For the first time ever in this country, there's no American Dream for immigrants,'" Cohen said.

Cohen portrayed the prospective changes as part of a longer-term strategy — along with other good government measures like campaign finance reform — to fix what many progressives see as a broken democratic process. Only when that's done, they argue, will it be possible to enact a genuine, far-reaching progressive agenda.

"This is a linchpin in terms of how do we start to get a democracy in this country again," Cohen said. "It's got nothing to do with labor issues per se."

"The lowest hanging fruit on that tree are the Senate rules," he added. "So it's a starting point."

Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell spent a number of days this week in a heated debate over Reid's plan to prohibit filibusters for "motions to proceed" to a bill, which allows debate on the floor to start.

"To the average American, these reforms are just common sense," Reid said. "Americans believe Congress is broken. The only ones who disagree are Mitch McConnell and Republicans in Congress."

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