“Believe me, this filibuster abuse is a real problem. Bills that would have stopped rewarding corporations for outsourcing jobs, made it easier for workers to organize for a voice on the job, required corporations to disclose contributions to politicians, ended subsidies to big oil companies and other critical initiatives all passed the House and had majority support in the Senate,” AFL-CIO Digital Strategies Deputy Director Nicole Aro wrote. “But they didn’t become law because of the silent filibuster.”
Aro is referencing several bills that passed the House during the 111th Congress when Democrats controlled both chambers. Those bills include the “card check” legislation that is designed to make it easier for workers to form unions by holding elections through signing cards instead of secret ballots.
In a separate statement, the environmental group Sierra Club endorsed the proposal from Merkley, Udall and Harkin, saying that it would “bring desperately needed transparency and accountability to the Senate.”
The group also pushed Democratic leaders to go forward with bigger changes. “Make no mistake, this proposal is the only meaningful reform option on the table. That is why the Sierra Club intends to mobilize our 2.1 million members and supporters to call on their elected representatives to fix the Senate by passing this bill, ending the obstructionism, and getting to work doing the job they were elected to do,” Executive Director Michael Brune said.
The supporters call it the “constitutional option,” citing inherent constitutional authority for each Congress to establish its own rules.
This time, the circumstances may be closer to a 2005 situation in which then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was considering a change in Senate rules to eliminate use of the filibuster to prevent judicial confirmation votes because of a blockade Democrats erected against some Bush administration nominees. The Senate ultimately avoided taking that standoff to the floor when the “gang of 14,” a group of seven Democrats and seven Republicans, agreed not to vote with their parties on filibustering judicial nominees except in the case of extraordinary circumstances as defined by each individual senator.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.