Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Udall Resolution Hits

Via Greg Sargent, here's the text of the Udall Resolution. Sargent provides the following summary of its points from a Senate aide:

Clear Path to Debate: Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Proceed

Makes motions to proceed not subject to a filibuster, but provides for two hours of debate. This proposal has had bipartisan support for decades and is often mentioned as a way to end the abuse of holds.

Eliminates Secret Holds

Prohibits one Senator from objecting on behalf of another, unless he or she discloses the name of the senator with the objection. This is a simple solution to address a longstanding problem.

Right to Amend: Guarantees Consideration of Amendments for both Majority and Minority

Protects the rights of the minority to offer amendments following cloture filing, provided the amendments are germane and have been filed in a timely manner.

This provision addresses comments of Republicans at last year's Rules Committee hearings. Each time Democrats raised concerns about filibusters on motions to proceed, Republicans responded that it was their only recourse because the Majority Leader fills the amendment tree and prevents them from offering amendments. Our resolution provides a simple solution -- it guarantees the minority the right to offer germane amendments.

Talking Filibuster: Ensures Real Debate

Following a failed cloture vote, Senators opposed to proceeding to final passage will be required to continue debate as long as the subject of the cloture vote or an amendment, motion, point of order, or other related matter is the pending business.

Expedite Nominations: Reduce Post-Cloture Time

Provides for two hours of post-cloture debate time for nominees. Post cloture time is meant for debating and voting on amendments -- something that is not possible on nominations. Instead, the minority now requires the Senate use this time simply to prevent it from moving on to other business.

A few points in response:
  • This proposal does lessen the number of choke points, by ending the filibuster on a motion to proceed. This vote has often been taken to be a key vote in evaluating the strength of a proposal. It definitely offers one weakening of minority rights.
  • This proposal does greatly increase the power of 51 votes. The majority only needs to wait out the minority (and the minority's delaying tactics will be limited by the fact that they cannot filibuster the motion to proceed to debate). That may be good; that may be bad. But it seems a fact of this proposal.
  • The process of how this vote is taken matters. If it establishes the fact that 51 votes can change the rules in defiance of the tradition (and rule statements claiming) that the Senate is a continuing body, the success of this proposal with less than 2/3 of the Senate would greatly weaken the power of the minority.

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