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Endless Blockade for the Senate Pussyfooters

January 25, 2013 - by Donny Shaw

By a vote of 78-16 , the Senate last night approved a new rules package that keeps in place the procedural loopholes have turned the Senate into a brick wall for sensible legislation. Under the new rules it will still be possible for a single senator to halt progress on a bill, or even on a motion to proceed to a bill, simply by stating that they intend to filibuster. In recent years, this procedure, commonly known as the “silent filibuster,” has prevented the Senate from passing even the most routine, non-controversial legislation.

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Senate Democrats Looking to End Default Gridlock

January 8, 2013 - by Donny Shaw

Since 2007, the year the Democrats re-gained control of Congress, the filibuster has turned into standard procedure for virtually everything that happens in the Senate. What was once considered a special rule to be used on rare occasions for personal dissent on an issue has become a routine matter of course for obstructing the other side of the aisle and gaining a political advantage.

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As grassroots opposition to the internet censorship bills known as SOPA and PIPA continues to build, the entertainment industry and their allies in Congress are scrambling to move them forward as quickly as possible. Here's an update on where things stand at the moment and what to expect when Congress comes back from the holiday recess.

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Another Jobs Bill Killed

June 23, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

On June 6th, the Senate opened debate on the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, a bill to reauthorize and expand a long-running and consistently successful job-creation agency, the Economic Development Administration. The EDA has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, and this reauthorization bill was introduced with bipartisan co-sponsorship and passed out of committee without any dissent from Republicans. But after two weeks of debate, the bill was unanimously filibustered by Republicans and has been pulled from the floor.

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The upcoming debt ceiling increase is pretty much the ultimate must-pass bill. If Congress doesn't pass it, it's not just that some programs would be put on hold or that some federal workers would be furloughed; the entire economy would collapse much more deeply than in 2008, and we would have no chance of recovery since our international credit worthiness, our principle financial asset, would be permanently ruined. Of course, every member of Congress knows that the debt ceiling increase has to be passed. That's why they're hoping to use it as a means to pass other legislation that they know cannot stand on its own. Fox News reports that Senate Republicans are planning to filibuster the debt ceiling increase unless the Senate passes a constitutional balanced budget amendment:

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The Senate began debating legislation to reauthorize and extend the the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technical Transfer (STTR), two of the federal government's largest research and development programs, on March 10. More than a month later, the Senate is still not finished with the bill. That's slow even by Senate standards, especially considering that we're in the middle of a jobs crisis and it's about as close to a "jobs bill" as we've seen recently. So what's the problem?

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Not Out of the Woods Yet

April 13, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Despite the grand government funding bargain that appears to be able to get a majority vote in the House and 60 votes in the Senate, it's not a sure bet that the bill will be signed into law by midnight tomorrow in order to prevent a government shutdown. The House is not going to send the bill to the Senate until Thursday, which means that if a single senator chooses to filibuster, they can easily delay passage for days and push the debate on well past the Thursday night when the government's spending authority runs out.

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Filibuster Reigns

January 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For the past four years, Republicans have used the Senate rules to delay all action, even on the most mundane of matters, to an extent far beyond what has ever been seen before. Still, the Democrats made it clear yesterday that they don't have the willpower to reform the rules so they can maybe actually get some stuff done this session. Some members of the Democratic caucus, mostly junior members, have been advocating for reforming the filibuster rules to at least bring some integrity back to the process by requiring senators who want to block stuff to actually stand up and block it. Instead, the Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid [D, NV], chose to keep the silent filibuster alive and pass only a couple minor changes to inconsequential rules.

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The History and Future of the Filibuster

August 23, 2010 - by Hilary Worden

The filibuster has a long and controversial history. It's been used (and, quite arguably, abused) by Senators on both sides of the aisle since the time of the Whig Party. After a series of Republican filibusters blocking their legislation, some Democrats are suggesting changes to Senate rules to eliminate or restrict the filibuster.

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Via public policy blogger Ezra Klein of the WaPo, please read and bookmark and share with gusto this must-read article by George Packer in that esteemed publication, The New Yorker magazine. It's called "The Empty Chamber: Filibusters and arcane obstructions in the Senate", and we're boosting it as a must-read, worth your time because of how the Senate's essential dysfunction affects the lives of every single American (both in our daily lives and in the possibility of a sane, sustainable, healthy future).

As we're screaming, the whole essay is essential reading -- the Upper House of the United States Congress is fundamentally broken and corrupt and in semi-denial of its sad state, with disastrous effects on the strength of our nation. But the key excerpt might be this simple sentence: "Nothing dominates the life of a senator more than raising money." We spoke out on these exact issues last week in our major blog post round-up, "Congress Is Broken". Click through for more info, helpful links, hopeful prescriptive cures, and even more reasons to make a tax-deductible donation to support our non-profit work.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

July 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As Congress returns from their week-long vacation this afternoon, all the big items on the Democrats' legislative agenda remain stuck in the Senate where the Democrats are one vote short of overcoming Republican filibusters due to the passing of Sen. Robert Byrd [D, WV].

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Third Time's a Charm

April 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After being forced by Democrats to go down on record against debating financial reform three times in three days, the Republicans are ready to relent and let the debate begin. The Hill reports:

Senate Republicans say that Democrats have made important concessions on a Wall Street reform bill, paving the way for debate to finally begin in the upper chamber.

McConnell said that Democrats have agreed to close “loopholes” in a provision setting up the fund that would have allowed federal officials to draw on taxpayer dollars to wind down a troubled institution.

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GOP Again Sustains Filibuster of Financial Reform

April 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Expect to see this headline over and over. In lieu of a breakthrough bipartisan deal, the Democrats are planning to hold procedural votes every day on ending a Republican filibuster of debating the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010. They're not planning on stopping until the Republicans give up or a deal is struck.

For the second night in a row, the Senate voted 57-41 against beginning debate. Sixty votes were needed for passage. Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] broke ranks and voted with the GOP again (apparently he still hasn't had time to read the bill) and Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] voted against the motion again in order to preserve his right to bring it up for another vote under Senate rules.

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Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] filed for cloture on the financial reform bill today, meaning that the Senate can move forward with a vote to begin debating on Monday. Under Senate rules, if there is an objection to a unanimous consent request to bring up a bill for floor debate, as is the case with the financial reform bill, at least 16 senators must sign and file a cloture petition on the motion to proceed to the bill. After 30 hours, the Senate can vote on whether or not to invoke cloture. The cloture vote is set for Monday, April 26 at 5:00 p.m. ET and will require a supermajority of 60 votes to pass.

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The Senate today came one step closer to extending unemployment benefits after failing to do before the Easter recess and causing 200,000 unemployed people per week to have their benefits expire. Today's vote was on a motion to overcome a Republican filibuster of debating H.R.4851, the Continuing Extension Act of 2010. The bill would extend the filing deadline for people who are eligible for the next tier of unemployment insurance until May 5, 2010. It would not create a fifth tier of benefits.

Today's vote was approved 60-34 with Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA], Sen. Susan Collins [R, ME], Sen. Olympia Snowe [R, ME] and Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] voting with the Democrats to defate the filibuster

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