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USA Today - Tom Udall: 'Constitutional Option' will Fix Senate

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By Senator Tom Udall

Nearly four years ago, I became a member of what is often called "the world's greatest deliberative body" -- the United States Senate. Instead, I found a "graveyard for good ideas."

Debate and deliberation are rare in the Senate these days. Unprecedented abuse of the filibuster and other procedural rules has prevented the Senate from tackling important issues facing our nation.

Since Democrats became the majority party in the Senate in 2007, we have faced the highest number of opposition filibusters ever recorded. Lyndon Johnson faced one filibuster during his six years as Senate majority leader. In the same span, current Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has faced 386: Among their targets were the Small Business Jobs and Tax Relief Act, the DREAM Act and a veterans jobs bill.

Today, all it takes for one senator to derail a bill and tie the Senate in procedural knots is a phone call. A growing number of my colleagues and I want reform. We believe that if a senator is going to grind the chamber to a halt, he or she should be required to hold the floor and explain the reasons why to the American people.

A simple majority of us have the power to make this change under the U.S. Constitution. Article 1, section 5 clearly states that "each House may determine the rules of its proceedings." On the first day of the new Congress, we plan to utilize the "Constitutional Option" to reform the filibuster rules, just as three Senate bodies since 1917 have done.

Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree that the Senate is a broken body. Before the new session of Congress commences, we should join together to make it a more meaningful institution and adopt rules that make sense no matter which party is in the minority or majority.

It's time for the Senate to change the way it does business. Our nation can ill afford continued gridlock. The stakes are too high. The challenges are too great. Come January, we must use our constitutional authority to restore functionality to the Senate and move forward on the work the American people demand of us.


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