As the Senate prepares to consider rules reform for the 113th Congress, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today reintroduced his "Mr. Smith" measure to speed up the legislative process and increase transparency in the Senate through the use of a "talking filibuster." The resolution would require Senators who want to filibuster a bill or nomination to show up on the Senate floor and engage in debate. Lautenberg previously introduced his "talking filibuster" resolution in the 111th and 112th Congress to address the growing misuse of the filibuster as a tool to obstruct work in Congress.
"It has become all too common for Senators to block legislation and never explain why they are stopping business dead in its tracks. My "Mr. Smith' resolution would cut down on obstruction in Washington by requiring filibustering Senators to defend their position to the American people," Lautenberg said. "The talking filibuster is a common-sense approach to breaking gridlock and getting the Senate back to doing the people's business. The Senate has become a deadlocked--not deliberative--body, and reform of the Senate rules will be important as we start the 113th Congress."
Lautenberg's "Mr. Smith" resolution would force Senators to engage in actual debate on the Senate floor after cloture (a call for 60 votes to break a filibuster) is filed on a motion, nomination, or legislation. If, at any time after the first degree amendment filing deadline has passed, debate ceases and the Senator or Senators conducting the filibuster give up the floor, the Senate could move to an immediate vote. The same would hold true for the thirty hours of post-cloture time attached to motions to proceed and executive nominations. Under current rules, Senators can filibuster and force the Senate to use up a week or more on a single nomination or bill, even if there is no debate occurring on the floor. Under the Lautenberg proposal, that time could be reduced significantly and more legislative business could be conducted.
Last month, Lautenberg called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senator Charles Schumer, Chairman of the Rules Committee, to include his "Mr. Smith" proposal in any Senate rules reforms considered for the 113th Congress. The Senate is expected to debate rules reform later this month.
The "Mr. Smith" resolution takes its name from the movie "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," in which the title character Jefferson Smith stands in the Senate chamber talking for hours to block a bill he strongly opposes.
Although bills are not allowed to be introduced on the first day of the 113th Congress, the introduction of resolutions is permitted. Lautenberg will introduce his other top priority legislation later in the month.