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Senate Rules are Broken: Call Today

Date: December 19, 2012
Type: AFA Article

The U.S. Senate rules are broken--that’s why Union Members across the country are calling their Senators to urge them to reform Senate rules.

In the past, our nation was able to adopt landmark legislation that put in place workers’ rights, civil rights, retirement security for seniors and much more. But today, obscure tactics like the “silent” filibuster allow individual Senators to hold the nation’s work hostage while cutting backroom deals. The House of Representatives passed 435 pieces of legislation that were never even discussed in the Senate because current Senate rules allow a single Senator to block discussion of critical issues. This gridlock has also prevented the appointment of judges, creating a crisis in the nation’s judiciary system, and has held up the confirmation of key presidential appointments. For example, the confirmation of Harry Hoglander’s reappointment to the National Mediation Board continues to be stalled in the Senate.

The current rules that govern the United States Senate are hurting our democracy.  “Secret holds” and “filibuster abuse” enable obstruction, and block progress on a range of issues key to America’s future. 

The Senate filibuster rule gives a minority of 41 Senators the power to prevent the Senate from debating or voting on a bill, a resolution or presidential appointment.  Under the current system, a party leader just has to refuse to allow a bill to be brought up by unanimous consent, forcing supporters to find 60 votes in favor of a motion to end debate.  The Senator wishing to filibuster the bill no longer has to defend their position or even show up to filibuster.  

The Constitution gives each chamber of Congress the power to choose the rules governing its procedures at the beginning of each two-year Congressional session. So when the Congress convenes on January 3, 2013, the Senate has the ability to adopt new rules, during its first “legislative day.” In the Senate, the first day of legislative business is not the same as a calendar day.  A “legislative day” starts when the Senate meets after an adjournment and ends when the Senate next adjourns. 

This week, AFA Members will join members of CWA and the Fix the Senate Now coalition for a full-scale lobby to urge Senators to adopt real reform of the Senate rules.  We are urging all AFA Members to call both their Senators to tell them that it is time to change the outdated Senate rules on the first legislative day of the 113th Congress.  

Call your Senators today to urge them to support Senate rules reform. (See sample script below.) Call 1-888-966-9836 or text RULESREFORM or FIXTHESENATE to 69866 and then ask your friends to join you. Senate offices are open 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM EST.

Sample script:
When your call is answered, say: "I am calling to ask that the Senator vote for meaningful rules reform including requiring a talking filibuster. Please support Senate rules reform on the first legislative day of the new Congress."

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