When I’m sworn in just a couple of months from now, I want to fight for jobs for people who want to work. I want millionaires and billionaires and Big Oil companies to pay their fair share. And I want to hold Wall Street accountable.
But here’s the honest truth: we’ll never do any of that if we can’t get up-or-down votes in the Senate.
Remember Jimmy Stewart’s classic film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? I love that movie. That’s what most of us think of when we hear the word “filibuster” — a single passionate senator speaking for hours about legislation they fiercely oppose until they literally collapse with exhaustion.
But that’s not what today’s filibuster looks like. In reality, any senator can make a phone call, say they object to a bill, then head out for the night. In the meantime, business comes to a screeching halt.
Senate Republicans have used this type of filibuster 380 times since the Democrats took over the majority in 2006. We’ve seen filibusters to block judicial nominations, jobs bills, political transparency, ending Big Oil subsidies — you name it, there’s been a filibuster.
We’ve seen filibusters of bills and nominations that ultimately passed with 90 or more votes. Why filibuster something that has that kind of support? Just to slow down the process and keep the Senate from working.
I saw the impact of these filibusters at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Forty-five senators pledged to filibuster any nominee to head that new consumer agency, regardless of that person’s qualifications. After I left the agency, they tried to hold Richard Cordray’s nomination vote hostage until the Senate agreed to weaken the agency to the point where it could no longer hold the big banks and credit card companies accountable.
That’s not open debate — that’s paralyzing progress.
I learned something important in my race against Senator Brown: voters want political leaders who are willing to break the partisan gridlock. They want fewer closed-door roadblocks and more public votes on legislation that could improve their lives.
On the first day of the new session in January, the senators will have a unique opportunity to change the filibuster rule with a majority vote, rather than the normal two-thirds vote. The change can be modest: If someone objects to a bill or a nomination in the United States Senate, they should have to stand on the floor of the chamber and defend their opposition.
I’m joining Senator Jeff Merkley and six other newly elected senators to pledge to lead this reform on Day One, and I hope you’ll be right there with us. Our campaign didn’t end on Election Day — and I’m counting on you to keep on working each and every day to bring real change for working families. This is the first step.