Senate Filibuster Reform

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					To Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

Our nation faces critical problems that require that all aspects of the federal government
function at the highest possible level. The cabinet departments and regulatory agencies must
have a full complement of leadership. Likewise, the federal courts must be fully staffed in order
to fulfill their constitutional obligation to provide justice to the American people. In order to
ensure that these vital positions are promptly filled, the United States Senate must have in
place a process that allows it to expeditiously and fairly fulfill its role of providing advice and
consent to the President’s nominees, as the Constitution mandates, particularly when a
majority of the Senate is willing to act.

Regrettably, the Senate’s constitutional role in confirming executive and judicial nominations
has broken down. We are now faced with the unprecedented procedural hurdle of requiring 60
votes for virtually every nominee submitted by the President. The result has been the
debilitation of vital federal courts and many important regulatory bodies. The use of the silent
filibuster by the minority, based on their requirement of 60 votes to consider an issue, has
evolved into a weapon of partisan obstruction and delay. The process no longer provides
unfettered debate that allows the minority to be sure that its voice is heard. In effect, it has
granted a minority of 40 senators a veto power over nominees to the judicial branch and
independent agencies – nominees that are imperative to the functioning of government and
access to justice.

The price for this unparalleled dysfunction is not paid just by those seeking justice in the courts
or important administrative decisions, but by the institution of the Senate itself, which is now
held in the lowest level of esteem in its history and has lost the respect and trust of the
American people.

This crisis of confidence grows as the roster of institutional failure expands:

       There now is no ability to enforce labor law in the United States of America. The
       National Labor Relations Board remains severely impaired by the failure of the senate to
       confirm a full five member board and general counsel. Three Democratic and two
       Republican nominees, along with the general counsel, must receive confirmation votes
       to ensure this agency can meet its statutory obligations to safeguard workplace
       protections for 80 million Americans and monitor the collective bargaining process.

       The judicial crisis in our courts is growing worse. Over 10 percent of all federal
       judgeships are vacant, creating a crisis in the courts and denying justice to thousands of
       Americans whose cases are interminably delayed, if they are ever heard at all. There are
       over 30 more vacancies now than when President Obama took office, dozens of which
       are classified as “judicial emergencies.” Filibusters have been applied to large numbers
       of district court nominees for the first time in history, and circuit court nominees face
       record-breaking delays and are routinely filibustered, including nominees for the D.C.
       Circuit, which has four openings, including the seat vacated by now-Chief Justice John
       Roberts in 2005.

       Opponents of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are trying to block the CFPB's
       ability to move forward with its mandate. The Bureau was established by Congress only
       two years ago because the public demanded reform and transparency of the activity
       within our financial system that brought about a fiscal collapse in this country. Yet the
       Senate refuses to allow an up-or-down vote on a director in a transparent attempt to
       subvert the statute by blocking the agency’s leader from taking office.

       The Senate minority has threatened to enact their anti-environment agenda by denying
       a confirmation vote on leadership positions critical to the Environmental Protection
       Agency and Department of Interior. If these positions go unfilled these federal agencies
       cannot carry out their charge of protecting the health and safety of Americans by
       limiting dangerous pollution in our air and water and will be stymied in supporting our
       wild places which are important to our national legacy and our economy.

       Similarly, the Senate minority refused to allow a confirmation vote on the leadership of
       the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services which oversees Medicare and Medicaid
       programs covering 100 million people and together accounting for 23% of the Federal
       budget. The threat of the silent filibuster denied leadership to the programs enacted by
       the majority in Congress.

       The Federal Election Commission (FEC), an independent body tasked with enforcing our
       nation’s campaign finance laws remains one of Washington’s most dysfunctional
       agencies at a time when oversight is sorely needed. It can only act with the agreement
       of at least 4 of its 6 commissioners. However, 5 of the 6 seats are currently vacant or
       held by lame-ducks still sitting on expired terms (as they are entitled to do until a
       replacement is confirmed). The sixth and final seat expires in April. Once the President
       acts and nominates new commissioners, it is the Senate’s responsibility to grant them
       an up or down vote.

The abuse of the filibuster to undermine policies that the minority cannot defeat through
normal legislative channels represents a subversion of core democratic principles and Senate
traditions, and should not continue.

The Founders gave to the Senate the responsibility to provide “advice and consent” to the
president’s nominees by majority vote. No one doubts that the Senate should take this vital
task seriously and carefully consider nominations to important positions within our
government. But they never envisioned that the Senate would abuse its advice and consent
role by employing rules and procedures that would deliberately undermine the full and efficient
functioning of the American government or deny a vote to those who have been appointed to
positions that Congress itself established. The willful misuse of the Senate’s rules must end.

We call on you, and all the members of the Senate, to restore fairness and honor to the
nomination and confirmation process for executive and judicial nominations, and use the rules
of the Senate in a constructive way that fulfills both your constitutional responsibilities and the
needs of the American people in these challenging times. Or to reform those rules if a
determined minority remains adamant in maintaining a veto over everything that conflicts with
their radical philosophy.


AFSCME                                               Democracy 21
Alliance for a Just Society                          Demos
Alliance for Justice                                 DREAM Action Coalition
Alliance for Retired Americans                       Equal Justice Society
American Association for Justice -Formerly the       Friends of the Earth
Association of Trial Lawyers of America              Gamaliel Transportation Equity Network
American Association of University Professors        GreenPeace
Americans for Financial Reform                       Healthcare for America Now
The American Federation of Government                IBEW
Employees                                            IFPTE
American Federation of Teachers                      Jobs with Justice/American Rights at Work
American Postal Workers Union                        Leadership Center for the Common Good
American Sustainable Business Council                LULAC
Blue Green Alliance                        
Campaign for America’s Future                        NAACP
Center for Biological Diversity                      National Association of Letter Carriers
Center for Effective Government                      National Coalition on Black Civic Participation
Center for Science in Public Interest                National Committee for Responsive
The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR              Philanthropy
Watch                                                National Consumers League
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of         National Education Association
Los Angeles                                          National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Action
Clean Water Action                                   Fund
Common Cause                                         National People’s Action
CREDO Action                                         National Resources Defense Council
CREW                                                 National Women’s Health Network
CWA                                                  NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice
Daily Kos                                            Lobby
Defending Dissent Foundation                         NCWO
Progressive Congress
Public Campaign
Public Campaign Action Fund
Public Citizen
Rebuild the Dream
The Shalom Center
Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation
Sierra Club
Utility Workers of America
Voices for Progress
Woman's National Democratic Club
Working America

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