Levin Statement on the Bipartisan Leadership Proposal to Reform Senate Procedures

Thursday, January 24, 2013

WASHINGTON—Following is the statement of Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., on the bipartisan leadership proposal to reform Senate procedures:

I strongly support the bipartisan leadership proposal to reform Senate procedures. The proposed rule changes and standing orders strike a balance between the need for the Senate to function more productively while protecting the rights of the minority. Amending our procedures in this way, rather than resorting to the so-called nuclear option, avoids having the Senate go from gridlock to meltdown.

The proposal is based on the bipartisan proposal that I developed with Senators McCain, Schumer, Kyl, Cardin, Alexander, Pryor and Barrasso, and that we recommended to the leadership. Our proposal was born out of the sincere belief that, even in today’s hyper-partisan environment, it is still possible for Senators from both parties to work together to restore the deliberative traditions for which the Senate was once known. 

It took many days of discussions among our group to reach an agreement we could present to our Leaders.  We looked past our frustrations with the recent practices of the Senate and acted together for the sake of this vital institution.

Perhaps the most significant reform in the bipartisan leadership proposal, as in our bipartisan proposal to the leadership, is a reform designed to end the abuse of the threat of a filibuster on the motion to proceed to a bill – that is, the abuse of the Senate’s minority protections to obstruct the Senate from even taking up and debating legislation. Reform in this area is vital, because abuse of the rules on the motion to proceed has prevented the Senate from engaging in what our rules are supposed to promote: debate of the important issues facing our nation.

The bipartisan leadership proposal would also reform the process of going to conference as we recommended by collapsing the three motions currently required by the Rules to be adopted in order to go to conference into a single motion and shrinking the cloture process on that conference motion from 30 to 2 hours. 

In addition, the bipartisan leadership proposal would reform the consideration of nominations as our bipartisan group recommended.  First, for district court nominations, it would reduce post-cloture time from 30 to 2 hours. Second, it would shrink the cloture process on subcabinet nominations by reducing post-cloture time from 30 to 8 hours.

When a few Senators threaten to filibuster or object to proposed unanimous consent agreements, those Senators should have to come to the floor to speak or object. So, our bipartisan group’s reform proposal urged the leaders to more vigorously enforce the existing rules of the Senate to force filibusterers to show up on the Senate floor to speak.

This proposal includes reasonable protections for the minority, and it reforms our procedures in ways that can end the gridlock that bedevils us. And as it accomplishes those important reforms, this proposal allows the Senate to avoid a process that would break the rules of the Senate and do untold damage to this institution.