Senator Bob Casey joined several Democrats calling for reform of the Senate procedure known as filibuster. In recent years, the practice has been used by Democrats and Republicans to effectively require a 60-vote majority for each step of the legislative process. Casey’s press release is below.
Casey Pushes Senate Rule Changes
WASHINGTON, DC— U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is calling on the Senate to adopt rule changes to reduce obstruction of legislation and encourage debate on issues important to Pennsylvanians and Americans. Senator Casey is supporting a new rule reform package that would provide greater transparency, allow for a more equitable amendment process and to reduce procedural tactics used to prevent consideration of legislation.
“Partisan gridlock in Washington has been out of control,” said Senator Casey. “Senate rules have been abused in order to block legislation and prevent real debate on the problems facing the country. The Senate should adopt these commonsense rule changes to make Washington more efficient and reduce the political gamesmanship.”
Since entering the Senate, Senator Casey has pursued rule changes to make Washington more effective. Over the past year, he has worked with his colleagues elected in 2006 and 2008 to reform Senate rules and change how the Senate operates. The rules reform package Senator Casey is supporting has 26 Senate cosponsors.
The rules reform package includes five provisions that would do the following:
• Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Proceed: Makes motions to proceed not subject to a filibuster, but provides for two hours of debate. This proposal has had bipartisan support for decades and is often mentioned as a way to end the abuse of holds.
• Eliminate Secret Holds: Prohibits one senator from objecting on behalf of another, unless he or she discloses the name of the senator with the objection. This is a simple solution to address a longstanding problem.
• Guarantee Consideration of Amendments for both Majority and Minority: Protects the rights of the minority to offer amendments following cloture filing, provided the amendments are germane and have been filed in a timely manner.
• Talking Filibuster: Ensures real debate following a failed cloture vote. Senators opposed to proceeding to final passage will be required to continue debate as long as the subject of the cloture vote or an amendment, motion, point of order or other related matter is the pending business.
• Expedite Nominations: Provide for two hours of post-cloture debate time for nominees. Post-cloture time is meant for debating and voting on amendments – something that is not possible on nominations. Instead, the minority now requires the Senate use this time simply to prevent it from moving on to other business.
The very first amendment introduced by Senator Casey in the Senate was signed into law as part of the landmark ethics reform legislation. Senator Casey’s law shut down the K Street Project and made wrongfully influencing hiring practices a federal crime. Republicans had used this vehicle to fill high-profile positions with Republican loyalists. The K Street provision would prohibit a Member of Congress from influencing hiring decisions of private entities. Wrongful influence could include threatening or withholding official action. Those found guilty of such actions would be subject to fine, imprisonment or disqualification from public office.
Senator Casey has been an opponent of secret holds that allow one senator to obstruct legislation without publicly revealing their identity. In April 2010, he pledged to not place secret holds and urged Senate leaders to take up legislation to end the practice.
To increase transparency in the appropriations process, Senator Casey cosponsored bipartisan legislation to make public detailed information regarding earmarked spending projects. The Earmark Transparency Act will create a searchable database of all requested congressionally directed spending items that will be made available to the public. Senators and Representatives would be required to post detailed information regarding projects on the website within five days of making their requests to individual appropriations subcommittees.