Adopted: July 27, 2010
Self-imposed Senate rules which allow a minority to block the will of the majority have made the United States Senate dysfunctional. The House of Representatives has passed more than 400 laws in this Congress since January 2009, that will not be considered in the Senate due to the abuse of its archaic rules. Hundreds of appointments are stalled because there is no unanimous consent to permit the Senate to take a vote.
The ability of each Senator to engage in unlimited debate – known as the filibuster – has now become a vicious partisan tool that prevents consideration of most legislation. As the use of the filibuster has become routine, it has become increasingly rare for the Senate to consider legislation, approve nominations, and pass annual appropriations bills. The Senate’s dysfunction and the continued abuse of this procedure by the current Republican minority have led to paralysis throughout the federal government.
Most important to CWA, these procedural rules have blocked our ability to make progress on legislation that addresses our major concerns. A vote to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, despite its strong, majority support, was blocked by a minority because of the filibuster. Despite overwhelming support, repeal of the corporate tax loophole known as the Reverse Morris Trust cannot clear the Senate because of a filibuster. Important comprehensive energy legislation that would address climate change and wean us off our dependence on foreign oil and create millions of good, green jobs has been bottled up due to the failure to get 60 Senators to agree to stop the endless debate. We will never pass comprehensive immigration reform with the current Senate rules. And during the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression, popular and much needed jobs programs have failed to become law because of the filibuster.
Use of the filibuster has increased dramatically since the 2006 Democratic electoral wins. Not only do we see filibusters on specific legislation, there are filibusters on whether to consider legislation. These recurring challenges to the procedural requirement for “unanimous consent” to proceed on routine matters has led to widespread dysfunction in the federal government. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office reported that in fiscal year 2010 about half of the money provided for non-defense programs had to be appropriated without legal authority because of the inability of the Senate to pass authorization legislation. Furthermore, use of holds has grown routine to prevent the filling of crucial personnel throughout the federal government, which jeopardizes important functions and work.
The filibuster, contrary to conventional wisdom, is not something that has existed since the early days of America. The ability to filibuster has evolved and changed over the history of the U.S. Senate. In fact, the original Senate Rules allowed for agreeing to end debate with a simple majority vote, rather than an arbitrary supermajority vote. Major reforms to modernize the Senate were made in 1917 and again in 1975.
If we are to make progress on any progressive reforms in our country, reform of the Senate rules must first take place. The filibuster must be eliminated and the use of holds to deny the appointment of qualified individuals must come to an end.
Resolved: CWA calls upon the Senate, when it convenes for the 112th Congress, to reform and democratize its procedures and rules.
Resolved: CWA shall educate its membership about the abuse of the filibuster and other Senate rules, join with other like-minded organizations in an effort to rally support for an end to these archaic rules, and utilize our political program to seek support from Senate candidates for a change in these rules.