Recognizing our Chance for Reform
A year ago, I stood on the Senate floor and appealed that we change the way that business is conducted in this body. In the time since, we've seen continued obstruction and abuse of procedural rules, rather than an open, honest debate over the challenges that our nation faces.
The House of Representatives passed more than 400 bills that the Senate never debated. We didn't pass a budget, we only passed one authorization, government nominees were needlessly delayed, many before passing by near-unanimous votes, and judicial posts remain vacant. And when obstruction happened, it typically came in the form of "secret holds" or "shadow filibusters" that the American public never saw.
The Senate is broken and today we have an opportunity to start fixing it. The Constitution says that "each house may determine the rules of its proceedings," and today I will submit a rules reform package that improves accountability and transparency, while preserving minority rights.
This is my New Year's Resolution for the Senate, which I outlined in an op-ed in Tuesday's Washington Post. But don't just listen to me. Here's what they're saying across the country about our responsibility to make important changes to the rules on the first day of the 112th Congress:
New York Times Editorial: Reform and the Filibuster
"Americans are fed up with Washington gridlock. The Senate should seize the opportunity."
L.A. Times Editorial: Senate should take chance to change filibuster and secret hold rules
"The [dysfunction] is a big part of the reason Congress' approval rating has fallen to 13%, the lowest in the history of the Gallup Poll. The chamber has a chance to save itself from itself on Jan. 5, and it should take it."
Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial: A welcome push for Senate reforms
"It's absurd that the Senate, which is often used as an example to developing democracies abroad as a model to emulate, uses any kind of secrecy. Senators should have the courage of their convictions to be upfront with their colleagues and constituents if they want to slow or stop the legislative process."
Detroit Free Press Editorial: Senate's Job No. 1: Reform filibuster rule
"Neither party will be in the majority forever. Moderates on both sides can and should coalesce around a streamlined filibuster rule that preserves minority rights without miring the Senate in perpetual gridlock."
New Jersey Star-Ledger: Majority rules: End the filibuster
"In the end, the question is whether senators will remember what they were taught in grade school: The majority rules. The Founding Fathers had that one right."
San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: Rules reform needed to fix U.S. Senate
"Today is the moment to instill more fairness and openness in the Senate - and the more democratic rules should stay in place, regardless of which party is in power."
Houston Chronicle Editorial: Filibuster fuss
"Under today's rules, such orations are rarely seen or even required. But that would all change under a proposal by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. We believe such a change is necessary and ought to be readily agreed on by Democrats and Republicans alike."
Charlotte Observer Editorial: Senate should put end to rampant filibuster abuse
"The timing on this makes it appear as if Democrats are trying to change the rules only now that Republicans are gaining seats. In fact, it should not be a partisan issue. Either party can quickly find itself in the minority, and so should pass rules that are fair to all."
Walter Mondale in the New York Times: Resolved: Fix the Filibuster
"Tom Udall, Democrat of New Mexico, has said that in a few days, at the beginning of the 112th Congress, he will call on the Senate to exercise its constitutional right to change its rules of procedure, including Rule 22, by a simple majority vote. I wholeheartedly support his effort and encourage both Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with him."
Chuck Hagel & Gary Hart in Time: Restoring Democracy to the U.S. Senate
"Resolutions have been introduced in the Senate to alter the cloture rule and permit majority rule, while continuing to protect the rights of individual Senators. In the interest of the nation and the U.S. Constitution, the Senate must once again become a democratic institution."
Bruce Ackerman in the Wall Street Journal: Filibuster Reform Both Parties Can Agree On
"Constructive action on the filibuster will challenge nay- sayers who see only partisan gridlock ahead. It may even set the stage for further outbursts of common sense over the next two years.."
Scott Lehigh in the Boston Globe: The key to restoring the broken Senate
"Merkley and his fellow reformers deserve real praise for their willingness to wage this uphill struggle. Here's hoping they succeed in restoring today's broken Senate to the more vital and deliberative body of yesteryear."
Carl Pope in the Huffington Post: Can the Senate Save Itself?
"A serious conversation has begun about making it possible for the Senate to function as our Constitution envisaged -- as a part of a balanced structure, not a complete roadblock to preventing the Congress from playing its role as a legislative initiator."
Robert Creamer in the Huffington Post: Senate Rules Must Be Reformed in January
"So if you're furious at how Mitch McConnell's Republican minority is holding America hostage, the time has come to do something about it. Ask your Senators to support changing the Senate rules that allow the Republican minority to obstruct the will of the majority."
Christopher Hayes, The Nation: Fix the Filibuster
"Changing the way the Senate works is a vital part of the broader project of redistributing power down and away from the small clutch of oligarchs who currently wield it. Either the Senate votes to heal itself when it convenes on January 5, or it consigns itself to two more years of sclerosis."
Joshua Green, The Atlantic: Time to Fix the Filibuster
"Tom Udall of New Mexico, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Michael Bennet of Colorado each have put forward thoughtful improvements intended to increase transparency, encourage bipartisanship, and focus the Senate's attention on legislating."
Julian E. Zelizer, CNN: Senate Should Let Majority Rule
"Both parties should cede some of their power -- Republicans the power they have and Democrats the power they would would want should they lose control of the Senate -- to improve the legislative process for generations to come. That would be historic."
Joyce Appleby in the L.A. Times: The Senate filibuster: Time for a change
"Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) is leading an effort to act on reforms on Jan. 5, when the new Congress convenes. It's time our senators hear from their constituents."
Jules Witcover in the Baltimore Sun: Want to filibuster? Put your mouth where your mouth is
"Democratic Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico has said he intends, on the new Senate's first legislative day, to offer a rule whereby senators will no longer be able to stymie action by mere threat of a filibuster but will be required to actually hold the floor with an old-fashioned talkathon."