News

Reid Vows Senate Rule Revisions to End Gridlock

Despite a little progress in recent months, Senate Majority Leader Reid says the US Senate remains dysfunctional as Republicans still engage in "obstruction for obstruction’s sake."

Despite a little progress in recent months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the United States Senate remains dysfunctional, as Republicans still engage in "obstruction for obstruction's sake" to thwart President Obama's appointments.

They keep putting up "roadblock after roadblock" and wasting the maximum amount of Senate time in the confirmation of even non-controversial nominees, Sen. Reid (D-NV) said. In 2014 alone, Republicans blocked votes on 23 nominations that they "later voted unanimously to confirm, wasting literally days of post-cloture time in the process."

"We changed some of the rules," Reid said. "We didn't change that [post-cloture time wasting]...If they're going to continue this, maybe we'll have to take another look at that. It's just outrageous what they've done."

CWA, working with the Fix the Senate Now coalition, was a driving force in winning the rules changes that broke gridlock to allow some of the president's nominations to receive an up-or-down vote. Reid credited CWA and President Cohen for leading the fight to change the Senate rules. In summer 2013, 2 million members of Fix the Senate Now organizations mobilized to make sure the Senate confirmed a full, five-member National Labor Relations Board and leaders for top agencies including Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Gina McCarthy to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

Later in the year, activists from CWA, Alliance for Justice, Sierra Club, Common Cause, USAction, Daily Kos, NAACP, UAW, NY Citizen Action, Working Families Party and others again revved up mobilization, with 200,000 members of those groups generating calls and emails to their senators.

That rule change meant a simple majority vote could confirm executive and most judicial appointments. Without the arbitrary 60-vote threshold to advance the nomination, judges are having easier time getting confirmed. In May, for instance, the Senate confirmed 22 judicial nominees.

But broken Senate rules remain a real block to democracy and to programs that benefit working families. While the Senate has reduced the judicial backlog in recent months, 145 nominees remain pending on the Senate calendar. Too many bills still do not get to the floor for debate despite having the support of a majority of senators, like programs to benefit working families, from extending unemployment insurance to support for veterans to a bill to allow students to refinance their crushing student loan debt.