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CWA, Coalition Help Restore Democracy to U.S. Senate

In November, Senate Majority Leader Reid and nearly every Democratic Senator acted to end Senate gridlock and obstruction on Presidential nominations.

Republicans had continued to block votes on qualified executive and judicial nominees as part of a larger strategy to undermine laws and agencies they disagree with, and to deny President Obama his constitutional authority to fill vacancies.

Finally, Reid and most Democrats said "enough" and followed a procedural action that now calls for majority votes on the President's executive and most judicial nominations, not the 60-vote supermajority that has been abused and applied to nearly all Senate business, including a motion to recess.

CWA President Larry Cohen pointed out that "the Senate action re-enforces the intent of Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution, which clearly states that the Senate's obligation of advice and consent is based on majority support, not super majority support. This is a good first step toward restoring a Senate that functions as an integral part of our democracy."

Contrary to Republican claims, the procedure used by Leader Reid isn't new and there's nothing "nuclear" or revolutionary about it. Instead, it is the Republicans' recent strategy of preventing up or down votes on qualified nominees without respect to their merits that has been a radical departure from Senate history.

Most recently, the Republican minority has refused to move to an up-or-down vote on President Obama's nominations to the D.C. Circuit Court and there are at least 100 other nominations awaiting Senate action.

Patricia Millett, Nina Pillard, and Judge Robert Wilkins have all received the highest possible rating from the non-partisan American Bar Association. They have broad bipartisan support, and no one has questioned their qualifications. Senate Republicans have blocked all three from getting a yes-or-no vote and have made no secret as to why: Senate Republicans don't want any appointments by President Obama to this court.

The same is true for executive nominations, including that of Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) to head the Federal Housing Finance Administration, an agency whose work is critical to the effort to stop unfair foreclosures. The Senate minority's refusal to go forward on Watt's nomination marks the first time that has a sitting member of Congress has been blocked from getting an up-or-down vote on a nomination.