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  • Thanking Our Colleagues

    by Senator Tom Udall

    Posted on 2013-01-24

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    UDALL of New Mexico. Mr. President, I rise today to talk about our efforts to change the Senate rules.



    For the second time since I have been in the Senate, the constitutional option has been crucial. It has pushed this body to seriously look at changing the way we do business.

    This week the majority leader and majority whip declared majority support for the constitutional option. As a result, the Republican leader has finally agreed to some Senate rule changes.

    As I said more than 3 years ago when I first proposed the constitutional option, it is time for reform. There are many great traditions in this Chamber that should be protected and respected. But the paralyzing abuse of filibusters is not one of them.

    Senators Merkley, Harkin, and I introduced a package of reforms that is fair, that reins in the abuse, and that protects the voice of the minority.

    While I believe our reform package is a much better way to restore debate and deliberation to the Senate, I appreciate the leadership's efforts to get a bipartisan agreement. To move forward to reform the filibuster and reduce Senate gridlock.

    I have carefully considered the compromise proposal that Leaders Reid and McConnell have crafted. I don't believe their proposal does enough to reform the Senate, but it does show that there is consensus, that both sides of the aisle recognize that the Senate is broken, that we must have change.

    The leaders' proposal is a step in the right direction. I am most concerned that it does not eliminate the fundamental cause of Senate dysfunction--the fact that any Member can halt Senate business without even showing up on the Senate floor. We shouldn't do away with the filibuster, but we should demand greater responsibility from senators who use it.

    The majority leader and the Republican leader are telling us that they will make Senators who object or threaten filibusters come to the floor and actually debate, using the existing rules. The proof of this will be over the next 2 years. We will be watching.

    I believe we could have achieved more substantive reform by using the constitutional option to amend the rules with a majority vote. I know several of my colleagues think this would set a dangerous precedent. I disagree.

    I know that we may serve in the minority at some point in our Senate careers. Senators Merkley, Harkin, and I have not proposed any rules changes that we are not willing to live with in the minority.

    Senator Harkin made his proposal when he was in the minority. I served in the minority in the House--which is a lot worse than the minority around here. So I don't think looking at our rules and amending them by a majority vote at the beginning of a Congress is dangerous. On the contrary. It is a healthy exercise to make sure we can still function as a legislative body.

    We started this effort over 3 years ago. We have made progress. But rules reform is not over. Our work is not complete. We should always seek to find ways to be a better institution. That is why I believe we should review and adopt our rules at the beginning of every Congress.

    One of the resolutions today is a standing order--it applies for only this Congress. We will have an opportunity to revisit this in two years.

    I want to close by saying this. Since the beginning of this process, my actions have been guided by the great respect I have for the institution of the United States Senate, my reverence for the many great men and women who have served here, and my sincere affection for my colleagues.

    That remains true today. I want to thank my colleagues for their consideration of our proposals, for their willingness to listen, and for their friendship.

    And I want to make clear to all those who have supported this effort--our work will continue. Our cause endures. History has made clear that substantial reform is more often than not the work of many Congresses, not just one.

    I commit to doing all I can to ensure that the Senate is not a graveyard for good ideas, that it is once again the world's greatest deliberative body, and that we have a government that truly responds to the real needs of the American people.

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