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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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Coburn vs. Big Corn

June 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] has stuck his neck out and is forcing a vote today on an amendment (identical to S.871) to repeal ethanol tax subsidies. Ethanol subsidies cost the government atlas $5 billion per year and they are opposed by groups like the Sierra Club and Clean Water Action on environmental grounds and by groups like Koch Industries on grounds that they distort energy market forces. On the other side, however, are Big Ag corporations like Monsanto, whose Roundup-resistant-corn-seed sales have skyrocketed under the subsidies, and they seem to be winning.

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Senate Dems Unveil Their Filibuster Reforms

January 5, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senators Tom Udall [D, NM], Tom Harkin [D, IA] and Jeff Merkley [D, OR] have released an official outline of their filibuster reform package. As expected, it would force senators who want to filibuster to actually stand up and delay things instead of being able to filibuster by just threatening to delay. It would also eliminate filibusters on simply beginning debate of a bill, ensure that both parties can submit amendments and make it impossible for senators to put holds on bills without revealing their identity.

Check out the outline below, and let us know what you think of this reform package in the comments.

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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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Why Cantwell Voted No

May 19, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As I reported yesterday, Senate Democrats lost a big procedural vote to wrap up the financial reform debate and move to passage of the bill because two of their own -- Sen. Maria Cantwell [D, WA] and Sen. Russ Feingold [D, WI] -- wanted to hold out and try to strengthen it. I said yesterday that the two were probably hoping to get a vote on an amendment they are co-sponsoring to reinstate the old Glass-Steagall Act firewall between commercial and investment banks. I was wrong. Cantwell's office today released a statement explaining why she voted no, and it's all about improving the bill's derivatives section:

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Roll Out the Cots

April 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

UPDATE: The Republicans have finally relented. They are going to let a unaimous consent agreement go through and proceed to an up or down vote on whether or not to begin debate.

Senate Democrats are planning an all-night debate on debating financial reform legislation -- the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010.

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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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Delay Slayer

April 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] has taken a lot of slack for not being a tough enough leader. But when it comes to killing filibusters, he's the toughest majority leader ever, reports Roll Call (via Political Wire):

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No Deal on Extending Unemployment Benefits

March 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As the House was wrapping up health care reform last night, the Senate was engaged in a face-off over extending the filing deadline for unemployment benefits, which is currently set to happen on April 5th.

The sticking point: Democrats want to pass a one-month extension of the deadline, which will cost about $10 billion, without any plan to pay for it. Republicans, lead by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK], want to extend the deadline and pay for the it with unused money form the stimulus bill.

Coburn is objecting to a unanimous consent agreement on quick passage of the Democrats' bill that was approved by the House last week (H.R.4851). Besides the unemployment deadline, the bill would temporarily extend a slew of other expiring programs -- COBRA health benefits for the unemployed, the national flood insurance program, funding for furloughed highway workers, and a delay in a scheduled 21% cut in Medicare payments to doctors.

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Bennet Joins The Filibuster Reform Effort

March 9, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Freshman Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] has joined a handful of his Senate colleagues in the effort to reform the filibuster. The filibuster has long been used by both parties when they were in the minority to prevent the Senate from acting on certain measures. But starting with the 110th Congress, when Democrats took control of the House and Senate, the number of filibusters launched by the GOP has skyrocketed to historic levels.

Bennet last week introduced a Senate resolution (S.Res.440) that would not only limit a senator's ability to place anonymous holds, but would also make it easier for a majority party to break a filibuster. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein explains the rather byzantine way Bennet's resolution works:

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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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A Busy Year

January 8, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The 111th Congress "worked more days in 2009 than they have in any year since 1995, when the Republican party took control of both houses of Congress," according to research from the Sunlight Foundation.

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Who Counts On Cloture?

August 19, 2009 - by Paul Blumenthal

While the guns of august rage at town halls throughout the country, pundits in Washington and staffers in Congress and the White House are busy counting heads to see if the object of all that fear and loathing, health care reform, has a shot at becoming law. The topic du jour is whether the Senate can overcome the 60 vote threshold of a cloture vote. Despite concerns among Democrats that they won't be able to reach the 60 vote threshold to avoid a filibuster, very few Democrats have defected on cloture votes (the vote that bypasses a filibuster) so far this year.

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