Congress Acts to Shut Down Filibusters

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After years of destructive Republican obstructionism of nominee confirmations, Senate Democrats have decided to change the chamber’s rules to allow an up or down vote on most nominations.

Under the old rules, even though Democrats hold a 55 to 45 majority, Republican senators could mount a filibuster on nominee confirmations that required 60 votes to overcome. The result was an effective minority veto, and Republicans used what was once a rare maneuver to block President Obama’s executive and judicial nominees at a record pace.    

About half of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominations in Senate history have occurred since President Obama took office in 2009.

“Time and again, Republican senators have put political obstruction ahead of what’s best for America,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Their unprecedented abuse of the Senate rules is a naked attempt to nullify the last election by denying President Obama his picks for critical judicial and executive branch posts. But the Constitution does not allow a minority of one house of Congress to hold the other two branches of government hostage. We applaud the leadership of Senator Reid to uphold democracy by breaking through the gridlock in order to address the pressing needs of our country.”

Most recently, Senate Republicans blocked votes on three U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit nominees and have gridlocked Obama’s nomination of Mel Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

“It’s time to get the Senate working again,” said Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “Not for the good of the current Democratic majority or some future Republican majority, but for the good of the United States of America. It’s time to change. It’s time to change the Senate before this institution becomes obsolete.”

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