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Senators Feinstein & Boxer: Support the Udal-Merkley filibuster reform proposal

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Senate rules that "require" a supermajority of 3/5's of the Senate (60 votes) to pass legislation are one of the biggest reasons for gridlock in Washington.     Without reform, legislation to address critical issues like climate change, gun control, cybersecurity, veterans benefits, mortgage reform, etc. can be blocked by as few as 41 Senators.  In addition, political and judicial nominees will continue to be political pawns, with single senators blocking votes on their nominations to extort concesssions from the President.

The US Constitution includes no supermajority requirements; these rule were created by the Senate and can be changed by the Senate (with a simple majority vote). Senator's Udal and Merkley have put forward modest, common sense reforms to the filibuster rule that keep protections for the minority but make it much more difficult to abuse the rule and prevent the Senate from completing its business. Senators Feinstein and Boxer are currently on the fence. The Senate will be voting on this proposal when they return to Washington on January 20th.  Both Senators need to hear from their constituents on the importance of this issue.

Here are some of the potential changes in the Udal-Merkley proposal

Banning Filibusters on the Motion to Proceed: Before a bill can be opened to debate and then voted on, it has to be brought to debate through a motion to proceed. Currently, that vote, along with the eventual ballot, is subject to filibuster. Reformers want to end that. Republicans blame their reliance on the tactic on Reid's refusal to allow them to offer amendments to bills. As a result, a compromise deal might make it easier for the minority to offer amendments while making it harder for them to filibuster.
Bringing Back the Talking Filibuster: Filibuster wonks often lament that the common man's image of the filibuster is the one from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, of a man talking at length to defend deeply held principles. That actually never happens anymore; in practice, the minority announces that it intends to filibuster and that's the end of the matter. In at least one case, a senator allegedly "phoned in" a filibuster while out Washington. (Occasionally, a senator reenacts the old method; Vermont independent Bernie Sanders won plaudits, but lost the battle, with a December 2010 filibuster.) Reformers want to force anyone who wants to filibuster to actually speak for hours in the grand phonebook-reading tradition of Fighting Bob LaFollette, Strom Thurmond, and Robert Byrd.

Banning Filibusters on House-Senate Conferences: Another case of a filibuster where you don't expect it: Senators can block the start of House-Senate conferences to reconcile versions of bills. That could be done away with.

Shift the Burden on Cloture: Currently, the Senate requires 60 votes for cloture on a bill. Minnesota's Al Franken wants to see the burden reversed, so that any minority that wishes to block cloture would have to produce 41 votes.

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