Senators Reid and McConnell announced today that they have reached agreement on a bi-partisan set of reforms to improve the functioning of the United States Senate. In recent years, particularly during the last Congress, the abuse of Senate rules led to continual filibustering and partisan gridlock. These problems delayed essential executive branch appointments, the appointment of equality-minded judges, as well as the passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal legislation.
In response, HRC joined a coalition of groups calling on the Senate to prioritize open debate, increase transparency and accountability, and prevent needless partisan obstructionism. Today those efforts were rewarded. Under the terms of the agreement, the full Senate will vote on approving the following reforms designed to streamline the process while preserving robust and open debate:
- Eliminating secret holds, including the right of senators to pass their secret holds to another anonymous senator to continue a rolling secret hold for weeks with no accountability;
- Eliminating the delaying tactic of forcing the actual reading on the floor of the Senate of an amendment that has already been submitted for 72 hours and is publicly available; and
- Legislation to exempt about 1/3 of all nominations from the Senate confirmation process, reducing the number of executive nominations subject to Senate delays.
In addition, the Senators agreed to further reforms designed to ensure that Congress runs smoothly under the updated rules. First, Senators Reid and McConnell made an official agreement that they would not use the so-called “constitutional option” to seek further rules reform in this or the next Congress. The Senators also agreed to limit their use of two tactics that have frustrated both parties – filibusters on motions to proceed and “filling the tree” to block amendments to legislation.
Thanks to HRC staff counsel Aaron Welo for his contributions to this post.