Dr. Benishek: “Filibuster Reform Key To Ending Gridlock In Congress”

Mar 14, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC:  Congressman Dan Benishek (MI-01) called on the U.S. Senate to reform the filibuster process that has increasingly been used to bring the legislative process in the Senate to a standstill. 

“It has become evident the way Congress does business is broken. Both parties are to blame for this problem, but if we work together we can fix it.  I believe if a senator wants to filibuster a bill they should have to stand up and actually talk a bill to death, not just threaten it,” said Benishek, a general surgeon from Iron River.

“I’m no expert on Senate procedures, but like most Americans, I know this problem needs to be fixed.  I believe the solution is not difficult.  If a senator wants to hold hostage the interests of this country, then make them take to the floor and tell everyone why,” added Benishek. 

While filibusters have been used throughout much of the last century, they have become much more common. In the first 50 years of the filibuster, it was used only 35 times. In the last two years alone, it was used over 100 times.  Filibusters have been widely used while the Senate was controlled by both Republicans and Democrats.[1]

“I believe the American people are tired of the bickering, tired of the gamesmanship, and tired of Congress not getting things done. We have enormous challenges facing this country.  We cannot hope to enact the kind of changes needed so long as legislation constantly stalls in the Senate,” added the first term lawmaker.

The filibuster was conceived in the 1800s as a way of blocking a Senate majority from getting its way, by having a senator continually talking on the floor until a majority vote is taken to end debate.[2]  Today, senators are not required to actually talk on the floor to explain their opposition to a bill, they merely have to signal their intent to filibuster and the legislative process grinds to a halt. 

Currently, four bills (S.Res.8, S.Res.10, S.Res.12, and S.Res.13) in the U.S. Senate would establish filibuster reform, but none have garnered enough support for passage. 

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[1] The U.S. Senate, http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/reference/cloture_motions/clotureCounts.htm

[2] Congressional Research Service, http://www.crs.gov/Products/RL/PDF/RL30360.pdf