The filibuster is a powerful parliamentary device in the United States Senate, which was strengthened in 1975[ and in the past decade has come to mean that most major legislation (apart from budgets) requires a 60% vote to bring a bill or nomination to the floor for a vote. In recent years, the majority has preferred to avoid filibusters by moving to other business when a filibuster is threatened and attempts to achieve cloture have failed. Defenders call the filibuster “The Soul of the Senate.”
Senate rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless “three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn” (usually 60 out of 100 senators) brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII.
The removal or substantial limitation of the filibuster is called the constitutional option by proponents, and the nuclear option by opponents. Under current Senate rules, a rule change itself could be filibustered, with two-thirds of those senators present and voting (as opposed to the normal three-fifths of those sworn) needing to vote to break the filibuster. Even if a filibuster attempt is unsuccessful, the process takes floor time.
On November 21, 2013, Senate Democrats voted, in a 52 to 48 vote, to require only a majority vote to end a filibuster of certain executive and judicial nominees, not including Supreme Court nominees, rather than the 3/5 of votes previously required. A 3/5 supermajority is still required to end filibusters unrelated to those nominees.
For more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filibuster
Senate Enacts Rules to End Minority Blocking of Nominees
Nov 21, 2013 9:46 AM PT Kathleen Hunter – bloomberg
The U.S. Senate enacted a major change to its rules, paving the way to allow a simple majority to confirm nominees for executive branch jobs and most judicial posts.
The Senate voted 52-48 on a procedural issue that effectively ends the requirement that at least 60 votes are needed to advance nominations, except for those to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid today said that since the nation was founded, half of the 168 nominees delayed in the Senate using the procedure were selections of President Barack Obama.
“Is there anything fair about that?” Reid said before lawmakers began debating the changes. “The American people believe the Senate is broken, and I believe the American people are right.”
Reid invoked what has been described as the nuclear option. The revision is limited to executive branch and lower-court nominations and wouldn’t apply to legislation, Reid said.
The Senate is “burning wasted hours and wasted days between filibusters,” Reid said. “Today, Democrats and independents are saying ‘enough is enough.’”
For more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-21/reid-plans-to-execute-change-to-nominee-rules-aide-says.html
SIERRA CLUB STATEMENT ON SENATE’S STEP FORWARD TO END WASHINGTON GRIDLOCK
Thursday, November 21, 2013 sierraclub.org
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Senate took an important step forward to end gridlock in the Senate by guaranteeing and up-or-down vote for executive branch and judicial nominees.
In response, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune released the following statement:
“Today is a victory for everyone who believes that a fully-functional Senate and a fully-functional democracy should be the standard, not the exception.
Over the last few years, Republican obstructionists in the Senate have abused the rules to create unprecedented gridlock, knowing full well they and their big polluting allies would lose a fair fight in which the majority rules. As a result, almost nothing has been achieved in Washington and the American public has rightly become disgusted with Congress.
Thanks to the leadership of Senator Harry Reid and his Democratic colleagues, critical nominees who have been blocked from doing their jobs will now be guaranteed an up-or-down vote — and those who use gridlock to score political points have now been denied one of their most prized weapons. Now, it is time to proceed to a vote to confirm these nominees right away. There is much work left to do to fix the Senate and get our democracy working again for the American people, but today the momentum has shifted in the right direction.”
Statement by the President on the Change in the Senate’s Filibuster
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:59 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everybody. It’s no secret that the American people have probably never been more frustrated with Washington. And one of the reasons why that is, is that over the past five years, we’ve seen an unprecedented pattern of obstruction in Congress that’s prevented too much of the American people’s business from getting done.
All too often, we’ve seen a single senator or a handful of senators choose to abuse arcane procedural tactics to unilaterally block bipartisan compromises, or to prevent well-qualified, patriotic Americans from filling critical positions of public service in our system of government.
Now, at a time when millions of American have desperately searched for work, repeated abuse of these tactics have blocked legislation that might create jobs. They’ve defeated actions that would help women fighting for equal pay. They’ve prevented more progress than we would have liked for striving young immigrants trying to earn their citizenship. Or it’s blocked efforts to end tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. They’ve even been used to block common-sense and widely supported steps to protect more Americans from gun violence, even as families of victims sat in the Senate chamber and watched. And they’ve prevented far too many talented Americans from serving their country at a time when their country needs their talents the most.
It’s harm to our economy, and it’s been harmful to our democracy. And it’s brought us to the point where a simple majority vote no longer seems to be sufficient for anything, even routing business through what is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Now, I realize that neither party has been blameless for these tactics. They’ve developed over years, and it seems as if they’ve continually escalated. But today’s pattern of obstruction, it just isn’t normal. It’s not what our Founders envisioned. A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to refight the results of an election is not normal. And for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal.
So I support the step a majority of senators today took to change the way that Washington is doing business — more specifically, the way the Senate does business. What a majority of senators determined by Senate rule is that they would restore the longstanding tradition of considering judicial and public service nominations on a more routine basis.
And here’s why this is important: One of a President’s constitutional responsibilities is to nominate Americans to positions within the executive and judicial branches. Over the six decades before I took office, only 20 presidential nominees to executive positions had to overcome filibusters. In just under five years since I took office, nearly 30 nominees have been treated this way. These are all public servants who protect our national security, look out for working families, keep our air and water clean.
This year alone, for the first time in history, Senate Republicans filibustered a President’s nominee for the Secretary of Defense who used to be a former Republican senator. They tried everything they could to hold up our EPA Administrator. They blocked our nominee for our top housing regulator at a time when we need more help for more families to afford a home and prevent what has caused mortgage meltdowns from happening again.
For more: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/21/statement-president