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New Rules For a New Senate

December 27, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After raw support, the most precious commodity in the Senate is time. All of you who have been following Congress with us are probably well aware of this. The rules of the Senate allow a single senator to express their opposition to a bill and, even if it is supported by the other 99%, force the chamber to spend up to 90 hours debating it before they can take a vote. This is why common-sense proposals, like requiring senators to file their campaign finance disclosure electronically rather than by snail mail (i.e. S. 482). Everyone wants this kind of stuff to pass, but because it's easy to threaten to shut down all other activity in the Senate for 90 hours, they often get blocked by a senators who want to use them as vehicles for attaching their own, often more controversial, pet issues.

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Sen. Ben Nelson [D, NE] crossed the aisle last night and gave Republicans the final vote they needed to block the Democrats' attempt to extend unemployment insurance. The Democrats had the support of 59% of the Senate for their extension bill, but Nelson's defection allowed the Republicans to sustain a filibuster of the Democrats' attempt to move the bill to the floor for an up-or down vote. Breaking a filibusters requires a 3/5ths majority, or 60 votes.

Since Nelson is now standing between millions of unemployed Americans struggling to stay afloat until the extension is passed (most likely in mid July) and the immediate relief Democrats are trying to provide, it's worth being aware of his reasoning. Below is a long excerpt from a statement he released the day before he blocked the Senate's last attempt to pass an extension:

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Filibuster Reform

February 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

After three-and-a-half years of record obstructionism, Sen. Tom Harkin [D, IA] has introduced legislation to reform the Senate's filibuster process.

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