The compromise version of filibuster reform that the U.S. Senate approved Thursday is “a missed opportunity to move forward or even ensure debate on the critical issues facing our nation," said Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen.
The reforms do streamline some filibuster rules by limiting filibusters on what is known as the “motion to proceed.” Republicans have used such filibusters not to block a bill from a vote but simply to prevent debate on legislation from beginning. The new rules also limit debate on some judicial and federal nominations and make some other changes.
CWA and the coalition Fix the Senate Now led the campaign to change Senate rules to end abuse of the filibuster—especially the “silent filibuster”—and the obstructionism that has brought gridlock to the Senate.
Use of the “silent” filibuster has skyrocketed in recent years, as corporate politicians have done everything possible to block popular progressive bills—even ones with majority support—from becoming law.
Before the votes were held Thursday, a number of Democratic senators backed the more far-reaching reform package that included a “talking filibuster” to require lawmakers to actually be on the floor and speaking against legislation. Other Democrats felt that too drastically changed Senate rules. But when the votes were held—one on nominations and the other on filibuster rules—all Democrats supported the measures, as did most Republicans.
In a statement, the Fix the Senate Now coalition said the lawmakers who backed the broader package, including Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M),
Strengthened the negotiating hand of Senator Reid and helped bring Senator McConnell to a compromise position—not a place Senator McConnell has frequently found himself in recent years.