Tester pushes to reform Senate rules with greater transparency, efficiency

Senator calls on colleagues to ‘stop hiding’, start creating more jobs

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is leading a new effort to clean up Congress by boosting transparency and efficiency in the way the U.S. Senate debates legislation, citing the move as his next step in bolstering accountability and cleaning up Washington.

Tester is pushing for greater transparency in Senate rules by forcing Senators who block up-or-down votes to do so openly and to explain their objections publicly.

“If I oppose a bill, or if I’ve got a problem with a nominee, I’ll look you square in the eye and tell you why,” Tester said.  “That’s how we do things in Montana.  It’s time to put a stop to secret, anonymous politics and get down to work.”

Individual Senators currently have the right to block legislation, nominees, and up-or-down votes, through the use of a filibuster.  In order to debate or vote on a bill that is being filibustered, a super-majority of 60 Senators must vote to override the filibuster.  Even unsuccessful filibusters by individual Senators can delay Senate action for days.

Tester says it is time for those Senators to “stop hiding behind rules and regulations and to get down to work creating more jobs for the American people.”

“Congress has got a job to do,” Tester added.  “Like most Montanans, I have a hard time understanding how one Senator can singlehandedly bring the Senate’s work to a grinding halt, without even saying who they are or why they’re doing it.  If folks oppose something, that’s ok.  But let’s work together to solve those problems, instead of just partisan grandstanding.”

The proposal of reforms backed by Tester:

  • Ends the practice of “secret holds” where a single Senator can block legislation or a nominee anonymously and without explanation
  • Clears the path to considering legislation by allowing the Senate to call up a bill if a simple majority of Senators agree to do so—sixty votes would still be needed to end a filibuster of the bill itself
  • Ensures a real debate by requiring Senators wishing to block a final up-or-down vote to speak continuously on the floor until the filibuster ends
  • Guarantees a fair debate through consideration of an equal number of amendments by both Republicans and Democrats

Use of filibusters, secret holds, and other delaying tactics have exploded in recent years.  According to official U.S. Senate records, more filibusters have been launched to delay legislation since 2006 than the total between 1920 and 1980.

A copy of the resolution is available on Tester’s website HERE.

Congress Years Filibusters
111th 2009-2010 136
109th 2005-2006 68
107th 2001-2002 71
1997-1998 69
86th 1959-1960 1
84th 1955-1956 0
82nd 1951-1952 0
80th 1947-1948 0
78th 1943-1944 1
76th 1939-1940 0