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Responding to your email about the filibuster

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by Warthog, Dec 6, 2013.

  1. Warthog

    Warthog Turner, OR Active Member

    Likes Received:
    Here is a copy of an email I received from Sen. Jeff Merkley, his response to my demanding they stop throwing out long standing Senate rules.

    Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley
    Dear Scott,

    Thank you for contacting me with your views regarding my efforts to change Senate rules. I appreciate hearing from you and having the opportunity to offer my perspective.

    When I was an intern for Senator Mark O. Hatfield (R-OR) in the 1970s, I experienced firsthand a Senate chamber that was effective. Senators deliberated and voted on legislation and nominations rather than using procedural tools to block votes. Even senators who disagreed were willing to debate and vote.

    Unfortunately, over the past few years, senators have engaged in unprecedented obstruction against legislation and presidential nominees. In President Obama's first term, for example, 27 executive branch nominees were blocked, considerably more than the total number filibustered in the previous 10 presidencies. The obstructionism reached a new level this fall, when a minority of senators refused to allow votes on any nominee, no matter how qualified or noncontroversial, to key positions. The constitutional requirement that the Senate "advise and consent" on nominations became a license for the legislative branch to hamstring the judicial and executive branches. This is unacceptable under our constitutional vision of three coequal branches.

    On November 21, 2013, the Senate voted to break the political gridlock and allow most judicial and executive branch nominees to receive up-or-down votes, while retaining minority senators' rights to insist on extensive time for debate. This is a huge step toward restoring functionality in the Senate and providing Americans with a fully functioning government.

    Oregonians — and all Americans — deserve a government that works for them. When highly qualified nominees are sidelined because of political posturing, or simply to block the majority from continuing the business of governing, American voters are effectively silenced, and families and workers suffer. It is wrong for a small group of senators from any party to singlehandedly paralyze the people's government.

    A number of Oregonians have voiced concerns that changes to judicial and executive branch nominations could ultimately threaten the minority's right to filibuster legislation. I agree that the rights of the minority need to be protected, which is why the broader reforms I have proposed would fully protect a senator's right to filibuster legislation.

    My "talking filibuster" proposal simply asks senators to actually debate if they want to block votes on the basis that more debate is needed. Replacing the current silent filibuster with the talking filibuster would create transparency and accountability. The American people could see who was refusing to allow votes on legislation and decide whether to support the filibustering senators.

    Although we may disagree on all of the details for how best to improve the Senate, I know we both want the Senate to once again become a deliberative body capable of taking on our nation's challenges. As I continue to fight to make the Senate a productive institution, I will keep your views in mind.

    Thank you, again, for contacting me. I hope you continue to keep me informed of the issues that matter most to you.

    All my best,

    Jeffrey A. Merkley
    United States Senator

    Feel free to share your views.