Thursday, December 30, 2010

Rally for U.S. Senate Filibuster Reform

Concerned citizens from throughout the Denver area will gather Monday, January 3rd at noon, on the steps of the State Capital to rally in support of the movement to reform the rules of the U.S. Senate. The Senate will adopt new rules when the 112th Congress convenes two days later, and a majority of senators are prepared to use a "constitutional option" to approve rules by a simple majority vote on the day they convene, Wednesday, January 5th--the only day a simple majority could prevail in a vote to change the rules.

Denver activists join Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, Colorado's Senator Michael Bennet, and all of the returning Democratic and independent U.S. Senators in calling for reform of the rules governing filibusters and secret, anonymous holds on legislation and appointments.

"We believe the current abuse of the rules by the minority threatens the ability of the Senate to do the necessary work of the nation, and we urge you to take steps to bring these abuses of our rules to an end," wrote the 56 senators signing a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last week. The issue will come to a head quickly, as adopting the rules will be among the first orders of business for the Senate at the start of their new session Wednesday.

More than 100 Denver Democrats have already signed their own letter encouraging Senator Bennet and Senator Mark Udall to press for reform, citing legislative dysfunction, partisan gridlock, cynicism, distrust, and ultimately inaction stemming from anti-democratic limitations on the notion of majority rule, including the following:

• the 60 vote requirement to end Senate filibusters;
• the potential for secret, unlimited holds by a single senator on proposed legislation and appointments.

Among the confirmed speakers for Monday's event will be the following:

• Rosemary Rodriguez, State Director for Senator Michael Bennet
• Dennis Gallagher, Denver City Auditor
• Dan Pabon, State Representative-Elect, House District 4
• Crisanta Duran, State Representative-Elect, House District 5
• Andrea Merida, Director, District 2, Denver Public Schools Board of Education
• Owen Perkins, Secretary, The Democratic Party of Denver
• Tom Parson, Captain, House District 2A, The Democratic Party of Denver
• Rudy Torrez, Chair, House District 5, The Democratic Party of Denver
• Ken Connell,
• Victor Galvan, Student

Additional speakers may be added to the bill in the coming days. Please check the main page at for updates.

Colorado Senators Bennet and Udall are both scheduled to travel to Washington Monday morning, and are not expected to be able to attend the rally. Senator Bennet's office has confirmed that his State Director, Rosemary Rodriguez, will speak on his behalf if he is unable to attend. Senator Bennet is looking into the possibility of rescheduling his trip to be able to attend the event.

Senator Tom Udall has proposed Senate Resolution 619, calling for a change in the filibuster rule, and Senator Bennet offered changes in testimony before the Senate Rules Committee on July 28, 2010 concerning the Disclose Act, Senate Resolution 440, and the Earmark Transparency Act.

A change in filibuster procedures means senators no longer need to be on the floor in order to filibuster. The letter submitted to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calls to restore the practice of actually holding the floor while filibustering. The senators also call for an end to the practice of anonymous holds, with which a single senator can hold up legislation or appointments without disclosing his or her identity. Additional reforms include preventing a filibuster on the motion to proceed and shortening the amount of debate and time allowed between cloture motions.

In the past two years, Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster 84 times, forcing cloture votes and the required 60 votes to end the filibuster. Though long-standing Senate members are often resistant to changes in rules steeped in tradition, abuse of the rules is a new phenomenon in recent years, with more cloture votes in 2009 alone than in the entire '50s and '60s combined.

For a full copy of the letter over 100 Denver Democrats signed urging reform of the Rules of the Senate, please click here or check .