“NO” ON SENATE RULE CHANGES

The Senate will soon vote on two resolutions to alter the Senate rules.  Together, the rule changes would weaken the rights of the Senate minority and limit the opportunity of individual senators to represent their constituents.

Permanent changes to the Senate’s Standing Rules (requiring 67 votes) would collapse the timeframe available to the Senate minority on everything from proceeding to legislation and nominations to motions to authorize conference.  Shortening the duration of any debate is problematic because it allows the majority to stack legislation and nominees for rapid-fire approval.  Additionally, empowering a mere 16 Senators to authorize this new fast-track consideration will disenfranchise those on the outside of the decision making process – conservative and liberal alike.

Changes to the Senate’s Standing Order (requiring 60 votes) for the 113th Congress would further empower a handful of senators – so-called “super senators.”  In exchange for the majority proceeding to a matter, the minority (and the majority) would be guaranteed two amendments to the underlying bill.  The change would effectively shut out other senators, especially those outside of leadership and the relevant committee, from the legislative process.  Additional changes would shorten the time allowed for debate of certain executive and judicial nominees, which all but guarantees these nominees will not receive the scrutiny they deserve given the offices they will occupy.

Taken together, these changes represent a continued pattern of capitulation on minority rights.  Allowing the majority to avoid an open debate will not fix the Senate; it will simply allow lawmakers – especially those with seniority – to avoid accountability.  As then-Senator Obama said in 2005, “the fighting and bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.”

Heritage Action opposes both resolutions and will include them as key votes on our legislative scorecard.

Related:
Heritage Action Scorecard