Senate inundated with demands to end “silent” filibuster

WASHINGTON – As the fight to stop GOP obstruction in the Senate comes down to the wire Senate offices are getting buried under tens of thousands of letters, the senators themselves are seeing TV ads demanding an end to the “silent” filibuster,” and a huge labor-led coalition has managed to spur one million calls into the Capitol between yesterday and today.

The AFL-CIO, which is part of the coalition, asked this morning that people continue to call into the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (1-866-937-5062) and tell him to publicly support strong rules reform by co-sponsoring Senate Resolution 4, introduced by Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Their measure would force senators who want to filibuster to do it in the traditional way – by speaking on the floor. Secret silent filibusters and holds on nominations are the order of the day today under Republican rule.

An alternative measure put forward by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich., would not end the silent filibuster, which, reform advocates say, is the thing that has allowed Republican minority to block any and all progressive legislation for the last few years.

By early this afternoon one million signatures in support of reform were delivered to 16 Senate offices. A variety of organizations today have also delivered CD’s to senators burned with signatures from their home states. In addition to the AFL-CIO and the Communications Workers of America, the union that started the campaign, the coalition includes the Alliance for Justice, Common Cause, the United Auto Workers, Credo, Rebuild the Dream and many other groups.

More than 30 organizations today sent out emails all across the country. Labor and its allies say the filibuster issue is critical because reform of the process is the only way to pass any legislation important to workers and their families. “There is no other way we can win legislation to protect workers rights, paycheck fairness, women’s’ rights, gun control or any other important legislation,” said Larry Cohen, President of the CWA.

“The U.S. Senate is broken – we can fix it,” say the CWA ads that ran all morning today on network interview shows and cable stations. The massive ad campaign costs in excess of $300,000, according to the union.

“As climate change threatens the world we leave to our children, and good U.S. jobs move overseas, time in the Senate ticks by. As women earn less than men for the same jobs, time in the Senate ticks by. It keeps ticking by with no results. Because the system is broken. But we can fix it and make the Senate work for us again, if our senators vote to end the silent filibuster and for some common -sense reforms.”

CWA spokespeople say that there are more than 50 groups, in addition to themselves, that are part of the coalition.

“The last hundred hours until Jan. 22,” are critical, Merkley told a press conference in Washington.

There were 391 filibusters in the last Congress, killing legislation such as equal pay for equal work. In the Democratic-run 111th Congress, a huge big business campaign backed a successful GOP filibuster that killed the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill designed to level the playing field between workers and bosses in union organizing drives.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., and his caucus control just 45 of 100 seats in the Senate. They lost ground in the recent 2012 elections but, unless filibuster reform succeeds, they will be able to block action on anything they desire to block.

Photo: Gray skies of GOP obstruction cover the U.S. Capitol in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite/AP


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.