Filibuster Reform Letter Goes to Washington

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9 mins read

Democracy Initiative is pleased to announce that their filibuster letter, which is co-signed by more than 50 organizations representing diverse issues and constituent groups, will be reaching Sen. Maj. Leader Chuck Schumer and Capitol Hill today. DemCast USA has signed on to this important letter calling for a definitive end to the obstruction of legislation by a minority of Republican senators.

As the letter states:

"We urge you to take all steps necessary to make sure that the Minority Leader and his colleagues cannot use the Senate rules to obstruct the majority from governing. Blaming the filibuster rule will not suffice as an explanation for inaction." 

For the full text of the letter, see here or below.


August 3, 2021 

Dear Majority Leader Schumer, 

In 2012, the Fix the Senate Now! coalition sent you and other Senate leaders a letter stating: 

“Facing unparalleled challenges—a languid economic recovery, crushing debt, and threats at home and abroad—the country cannot afford another two years of inaction fostered by outmoded and broken legislative institutions. In recent decades, Senate conventions have devolved to remove incentives for bipartisan comity, collegiality, and compromise. Whereas Senators once resorted to filibustering only in rare and exceptional instances of intense opposition, rampant obstruction has now transformed standard operating procedure. Today, majority rule in the Senate is the exception, not the rule.” 

Today, our country is reeling from intersecting crises that undermine public health, racial justice, the economy, our climate, and our democracy. These crises have accelerated growing inequities in our system, especially for Black and brown communities and working people. The need for action is urgent, but obstruction in the Senate has only gotten worse. 

Despite the deadly pandemic, voters showed up in record numbers last cycle to elect new leadership in Washington. The American voters elevated you to the majority to govern. The Senate majority represents 41 million more people than the Senate minority. The American people expect you to deliver results. 

Last summer, you said that “nothing is off the table” when it comes to your options to overcome  Republican filibusters. You kept this commitment in January by refusing to capitulate to the Minority Leader’s demands that the organizing resolution preserve the filibuster. Thank you for holding firm. 

The House of Representatives has already passed important legislation this Congress to empower and strengthen protections for workers; expand access to voting rights and bolster our democracy; protect the rights of LGBTQ people; hold law enforcement accountable in the wake of systemic racism; enact common sense gun violence prevention legislation; and reform our immigration system. Legislation to protect our environment and raise the minimum wage is also critically important. 

The Senate must do its job and provide fair consideration of these critical bills, but without reforming Senate rules, none of these bills will advance and become law as has been proven repeatedly this year as you’ve tried to bring these bills to the Senate floor for debate. As we said in 2012, “We believe that common sense reforms will end routine and reflexive obstruction and will ensure that the Senate will once again be able to address the critical issues facing our country.” Some of us support the full elimination of the filibuster, and all of us believe changes are necessary and must include these at a minimum: 

• The minority should be prohibited from blocking even the opening of debate on a bill, as is permitted under the current rules. 

• So long as the filibuster remains available once debate has begun, those wishing to obstruct the final vote should be required to hold the floor and explain themselves so that their colleagues and the American people know who to hold accountable. 

• Those wishing to block action should bear the burden of waging their obstruction.

Like you, we are well familiar with the Minority Leader’s tactics to block the Senate from fairly considering legislation. A master of gridlock, the Minority Leader uses the filibuster rule—which  President Obama called a “Jim Crow relic,” at Congressman John Lewis’s funeral last summer—to block the majority from voting on legislation supported by senators who represent the majority of America. 

As you know, the mere threat of a filibuster can be enough to stop action. The American Rescue Plan passed the Senate with a simple-majority vote through reconciliation because you accurately predicted that the Minority Leader would otherwise block its passage with a filibuster. 

A filibuster-everything strategy is a relatively new phenomenon in the history of the Senate. There is essentially no cost to the minority to engage in its obstruction—merely registering an objection behind closed doors is enough to ratchet up the hurdle of passage from 51 to 60 votes. This is intolerable. There must be consequences for obstructionist behavior. 

Time is of the essence. As President Biden said when discussing Senate rules, “democracy is having a hard time functioning.” With the 2022 election cycle already looming, state legislatures in key states including Georgia and Arizona are swiftly pushing new laws that create barriers to the right to vote, especially for Black, brown, and women voters. 17 states have enacted 28 new laws restricting voting and more are likely. You have the power to reverse this. 

We urge you to take all steps necessary to make sure that the Minority Leader and his colleagues cannot use the Senate rules to obstruct the majority from governing. Blaming the filibuster rule will not suffice as an explanation for inaction. 

We stand willing to help however we can to strengthen democracy nationwide.

Sincerely, 

Democracy Initiative
20/20 Vision
Action Together New Jersey (ATNJ) 
AFL-CIO 
Alliance for Justice 
Alliance for Retired Americans 
Alliance for Youth Action 
American Family Voices 
American Federation of Musicians 
American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO 
Blue Wave Postcard Movement 
Brady United 
Campaign for Our Future 
CASA in Action 
Center for Science in the Public Interest 
Clean Water Action 
Common Cause 
Communications Workers of America
DemCast USA 
Democracy Matters 
Demos 
Fair Elections Center 
Fix Democracy First 
Friends of Detroit City Airport CDC 
Friends of the Earth 
Greenpeace USA 
Her Time 
International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)
Jobs with Justice 
League of Women Voters of the United States 
March for Our Lives 
Mid-Ohio Valley Climate Action 
NAACP 
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice 
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC)
National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) 
Natural Resources Defense Council 
Our Revolution 
People for the American Way 
People’s Action 
Progressive Turnout Project 
Public Citizen 
SPLC Action Fund 
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 
Sierra Club 
Small Planet Institute 
The Workers Circle 
Transport Workers Union 
UDW AFSCME Local 3930 
United Auto Workers 
Voices for Progress 
Working Families Party 

cc: Senate Democratic Caucus

You can read the Fix the Senate Now! 2012 letter here.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.


DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks, but are sustained solely on donations from grassroots supporters. Because our revenue isn’t click-driven, we don’t take in any direct revenue from the creative contributions of grassroots activists who post on the site. This sets us apart from other media sites. And we’re proud of that.

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