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On 1st Day of Congress, Mark Udall Calls on Colleagues to Improve Bipartisan Cooperation in Senate

Rules Changes Udall Announced in September Would Help Senators Work More Effectively Together

Posted: Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Today, the first day of the 112th Congress, Mark Udall called on his colleagues to adopt changes to the Senate's rules that he has suggested, which would help the Senate operate more smoothly while also improving bipartisan cooperation. Udall first announced his rules proposal in September, when it was endorsed by Norman Ornstein, a noted scholar at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Senators this week are considering various proposals to change their rules, which govern - among other things - whether to allow Senators to filibuster legislation. Like many of his colleagues, Udall has expressed frustration with the level of partisan politics and delay in the Senate over the last two years. But unlike some of his colleagues, he believes the only way to change the system is to find a way to increase bipartisan cooperation.

Today, Udall renewed his call for cooperation, adding that it is more important than ever in order to meet the biggest challenges we face - to put people back to work, strengthen the economy and make real progress toward reducing the national debt.

"The reason I developed this proposal in September was because I was frustrated with the level of obstruction in the Senate. But we aren't going to get better cooperation if we jam one party's position over another, especially since we all know political fortunes change. We need to find a way to work together so we can accomplish what Americans elected us to do. Job one is getting our country's economy back on track while reducing the national debt," Udall said. "I believe we can do that - but only if we set aside the ideological differences that have poisoned our politics up to now."

"Today's discussion is more than just an esoteric debate about the Senate's rules - if we change them so that the Senate works more efficiently, it can be a critical turning point," Udall continued. "My resolution can help reduce the opportunity for gridlock, while also encouraging both sides to work together on the most important issues we face in our nation. I hope that our colleagues will join me to seize the opportunity we have before us: to work together to improve the way the Senate operates, and in doing so, encourage the kind of cooperation that Americans expect and deserve."

Senator Udall's proposal has seven major provisions, which would:

• Level the playing field between the majority and the minority on cloture votes;
• Provide a way to amend a bill when the majority leader is blocking new amendments;
• Shorten the time frame required to stop a filibuster;
• Reduce the number of votes required to end debate on a single bill;
• End the reading of amendments when they are made available in advance;
• Eliminate unnecessary delay on judicial nominations; and
• End the requirement that Senate committees seek consent to hold meetings.

More detail on Udall's proposal follows:

Leveling the playing field:
Current Rule:
60 votes required to invoke cloture (3/5 of members sworn into office).
Udall Change: 3/5 of members present and voting - this encourages members of both the majority and the minority to show up to make their voices heard.

Allowing the minority to offer amendments:
Current Rule:
The majority leader can block all amendments.
Udall Change: Allow 50-vote motion to call up amendment (limit five per day), enabling the minority to have amendments heard.

One filibuster per bill:
Current Rule:
Filibusters apply to motions to proceed, substitute, passage, and moving to conference.
Udall Change: No filibuster on motion to proceed, post-substitute passage, and moving to conference - eliminating unnecessary opportunities for delay.

Shorter time frame:
Current Rule:
Cloture "ripens" for two days before vote and 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
Udall Change: Cloture ripens 24 hours after filing, 30 hours of post-cloture debate is split (majority can yield back 15 hours) - speeding up the Senate's work.

Ending limitations on committee meetings:
Current Rule:
Committees must get consent from the entire Senate to meet after morning hours (2 hours past convening).
Udall Change: Committees can meet at any time without consent.

Eliminating delay on judicial nominations:
Current Rule:
After cloture is invoked on a nomination, there is 30 hours of post-cloture debate.
Udall Change: After cloture is invoked on a nomination, a final confirmation vote will follow immediately, eliminating unnecessary delays.

Ending forced reading of amendments:
Current Rule:
A Senator can force amendments to be read in their entirety.
Udall Change: If made available 24 hours in advance, a 50-vote motion can end the reading, eliminating opportunities for unnecessary delay.


By: Tara Trujillo 202-224-5941
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