Letter from Dianne Feinstein

Dear Mr. Wentworth:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to reforming the use of the filibuster in the Senate.  I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.

The filibuster is a long-standing Senate practice that traditionally allows unlimited debate on the Senate floor.  However, this has not been the case in recent memory.  Cloture, a rule requiring 60 votes to end debate and proceed to legislation, has been abused to require a supermajority vote threshold for bills that would normally only need a majority vote to pass.  It is important to note that often, in practice no debate is actually occurring during this process.  As a result of these delay tactics, virtually everything is held up by an objection, even routine and historically non-controversial matters.

On January 24, 2013, the Senate passed two resolutions, S. Res. 15 and S. Res. 16, by a vote of 78 – 16 and 86 – 9 respectively, to reform the filibuster process and cut down on the use of delay tactics.  The resolutions, both of which I voted for, will allow the Senate to more quickly proceed to a measure while preserving the right of the minority party to offer amendments during floor debate.  In addition, once the Senate agrees to proceed to a final vote on most Executive branch nominations, any further debate will be limited to 8 hours, and only 2 hours for district court judge nominations.  The resolutions will also streamline the process for bills to go to a conference committee to resolve differences between House and Senate bills.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also entered into an informal agreement in which both agreed to call on Senators who wish to filibuster to actually come to the Senate floor to do so.

To be clear, the resolutions keep intact a Senator’s fundamental ability to filibuster a bill and 60 votes will still be needed for cloture.  I recognize that the filibuster serves an important role in encouraging the majority to seek compromise and in protecting the rights of the minority, which can change from one Congress to the next.  Please know that I appreciate your thoughts on this matter and will keep your comments in mind should the Senate further consider the use of the filibuster.

Once again, thank you for writing to me.  If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.  Best regards.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

We thank Senator Dianne for clarifying. I do think, however, that bills need a little more simplifying.

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