Heinrich Backs Filibuster Reform

Cosponsors Resolution to Restore Senate Debate and Accountability

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) has co-sponsored a resolution to enact meaningful Senate rules reforms that would end filibuster abuse and restore debate to the chamber.  Introduced earlier this month by U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the measure aims to reform the filibuster through a procedure known as the Constitutional Option.

“The abuse of the filibuster over the last decade has prevented vital legislation like the DREAM Act and the American Jobs Act from even being considered on the Senate floor. This fair and simple proposal clears a path to debate and requires senators who wish to filibuster to actually speak on the floor,” said Sen. Heinrich. “I am proud to join Senator Udall in helping to alleviate dysfunction and increase accountability in the Senate, and look forward to really making a difference in the lives of the people of New Mexico.”

"Filibuster abuse and partisan gridlock have turned the Senate into a graveyard for good ideas, instead of an institution that can fully respond to the needs of our nation," said Sen. Udall. "I'm extremely pleased Martin has joined our effort to reform the Senate rules, so together we can effectively tackle the most important issues for New Mexico families, like continued job growth."

Article 1, section 5 of the Constitution gives a majority of senators the power to adopt and amend the operating rules of the chamber at the beginning of a new congress, a procedure known as the Constitutional Option. The Constitutional Option has been the catalyst for reforming the filibuster rule numerous times since first adopted in 1917; the last being in 1975 when it was amended to its current form.

“The purpose of the filibuster is to protect the rights of the minority.  It should never not be used in the cavalier manner we have seen all too frequently in recent years, and it should never be anonymous.  If you are going to filibuster, you should hold the floor and explain your obstructionism to the American people," said Sen. Heinrich.

The rules reform package includes four provisions that would do the following:

  1. Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Proceed: Clears a path to debate by making motions to proceed not subject to a filibuster, but providing two hours of debate.
  2. Require a Talking Filibuster: Forces Senators who filibuster to actually speak on the floor, greatly increasing public accountability and requiring time and energy if the minority wants to use this tool to obstruct the Senate.
  3. Expedite Nominations: Reduces post-cloture debate on nominations from 30 hours to 2 hours, except for Supreme Court Justices (for whom the current 30 hours would remain intact).
  4. Eliminate the Filibuster on Motions to Establish a Conference Committee: Reduces the steps to establish a conference committee from three motions to one, and limits debate the consolidated motion to 2 hours.

The resolution, S. Res 4 Rules Reform Package, could be voted on as early as next week.