The new Congress gets to work Wednesday, and one of the first items on the agenda will be setting the rules for the U.S. Senate. Several proposals are circulating that would end the gridlock the Senate has faced in recent years with increased use of the filibuster. A coalition of organizations called "Fix the Senate Now" is supporting those plans.
George Kohl, senior director of legislative policy and research at Communications Workers of America (CWA), says the problem has hurt the democratic process and both political parties.
"The filibuster has been abused. It prevents discourse, it prevents debate, and we end up having a lack of the deliberation that we expect from our Senate."
The filibuster tactic has stalled about 70 percent of all Senate legislation each year since 2006. Until 1970, only about one filibuster was used per year.
Common Cause president Bob Edgar says the U.S. can't keep up with the world if the Senate fails to address its business in a timely manner. He also notes that the filibuster is not part of the constitution, and may even be illegal.
"Many of the senators have discovered that they can't consider even pieces of legislation that have passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives, because of either a formal filibuster, or the threat of a filibuster."
Proposals would not eliminate the filibuster, but change how it could be used, such as requiring the Senator wanting to use the tactic to do so on the Senate floor.
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