WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today joined U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), and a bipartisan group of 58 colleagues in writing to Senate leadership and urging them to leave the legislative filibuster intact and preserve the 60 vote threshold for legislation.
The filibuster is a legislative procedure used by Senators dating back to the 1850s, when it was applied to efforts to hold the Senate floor in order to prevent a vote on a bill. Historically, the threshold for overcoming a filibuster is for 60 Senators to agree to vote to end debate. However, this week the Republican-led Senate abandoned that historic practice in favor of the so-called “nuclear option” to save Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination with a simple majority of 51 votes.
“The filibuster is not in the Constitution nor the original Senate rules, but we have a bicameral system for a reason and this legislative tool serves a critical purpose in ensuring the functioning of our democratic republic,” said Senator Reed. “Yes, it sometimes slows the process down, and some have abused or subverted it. But it remains an important part in our system of checks and balances.”
"This letter demonstrates that a majority of the Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, can come together to protect an important tradition of the Senate that recognizes the rights of the minority and makes bipartisan legislation more likely,” said Senator Collins. “After the contentious and polarized debate of the past few weeks, I am hopeful that this letter indicates a new determination by a bipartisan group of more than 60 Senators to move forward to solve the pressing problems facing our nation."
“Democrats want the Senate to work, and we are willing to partner with our colleagues across the aisle if we can get things done for the American people,” said Senator Coons. “We have a long way to go to heal the wounds between our two parties, but this letter is a small first step towards that important goal."
The letter was signed by 61 U.S. Senators. In addition to Collins, Coons, and Reed, the letter was also signed by U.S. Senators: Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Luther Strange (R-AL), Richard Burr (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME), Mark Warner (D-VA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Boozman (R-AR), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), John Thune (R-SD), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Michael Enzi (R-WY), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Dean Heller (R-NV), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Rob Portman (R-OH), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), John Kennedy (R-LA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Thomas Carper (D-DE), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Todd Young (R-IN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ).
The full text of the letter is below:
The Honorable Mitch McConnell The Honorable Charles E. Schumer
Majority Leader Democratic Leader
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Democratic Leader Schumer:
We are writing to urge you to support our efforts to preserve existing rules, practices, and traditions as they pertain to the right of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation before the United States Senate. Senators have expressed a variety of opinions about the appropriateness of limiting debate when we are considering judicial and executive branch nominations. Regardless of our past disagreements on that issue, we are united in our determination to preserve the ability of Members to engage in extended debate when bills are on the Senate floor.
We are mindful of the unique role the Senate plays in the legislative process, and we are steadfastly committed to ensuring that this great American institution continues to serve as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Therefore, we are asking you to join us in opposing any effort to curtail the existing rights and prerogatives of Senators to engage in full, robust, and extended debate as we consider legislation before this body in the future.