No vote on gun control? No votes on judicial nominees? Filibuster reform coming?

Original Reporting | By Samantha CookMeade Klingensmith |

Too Busy?

A few offices claimed that the Senator and their staff were too busy working on other issues to comment on filibuster reform. The press secretary of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-V.t.), said that because the Senator was working on an immigration bill, he would most likely be unable to answer our questions. Even when Remapping Debate emailed a list of questions, we were told that it was “not probable,” that we would get responses. We sent a follow up email, informing the press secretary of an extended deadline, but received no reply.

The offices of Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mary Landrieu (D-La.), also indicated the Senator was busy and would most likely be unable to reply.


Refused to comment

The press secretary for Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wrote back to Remapping Debate, “Unfortunately the Senator will not be available for an interview.” We followed up by emailing a list of questions and asking if it was possible to receive written responses instead. We then followed up to inform the office of our deadline extension. We followed up once more both through phone and email, but never received a reply.

The press office of Senators Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) also declined to answer our questions.


Did not respond

The majority of Senators we reached out to refused to give any explanation as to why our questions remained unanswered. For example, after repeatedly reaching out to the press office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the communications director wrote back asking for our specific question. Remapping Debate sent him our questions, but received no response. We then followed up with a deadline extension, but no one got back to us.

Remapping Debate received no substantive response from the press offices of Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Chris Coons (D-Del.), William Cowan (D-Mass.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.),  Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Remapping Debate’s questions for the Senators

We emailed the following questions to the press offices of Senators who supported the Manchin-Toomey gun control legislation but did not co-sponsor the “talking filibuster” proposal at the beginning of this year:

1. Last month, the Manchin-Toomey amendment failed to garner the 60 necessary votes required for passage by the consent agreement requested by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. You voted for the passage of that amendment. Does the failure to pass meaningful gun control legislation give you cause to question the Senate’s current filibuster rules? If not, why?

2. According to Gallup, the Manchin-Toomey amendment was supported by 65 percent of Americans and opposed by only 29 percent. If a measure with such national popularity failed to pass the Senate, doesn’t that indicate a broken legislative system? If so, isn’t filibuster reform the best way to fix it?

3. Last January, Senators Udall, Merkley, and Harkin proposed a Senate Resolution that would create a “talking filibuster,” requiring those who filibuster to actually speak on the floor of the Senate for the duration of their filibuster. You were not among the 22 Senators to co-sponsor this bill. Would you now support such legislation? If not, what is your objection?

4. Shouldn’t Senators who want to stymie an up or down vote have to stand and explain their reasons?

5. Wouldn’t the talking filibuster deter frivolous filibusters and keep the filibuster reserved for extraordinary circumstances?

6. Senator Harkin has proposed legislation that would, over the course of eight days, gradually reduce the number of votes required to cut off debate on an initial procedural motion, from 60 for the first vote to 51 for the fourth. Would you support this plan? If not, what is your objection?

7. Isn’t it the case that Senator Harkin’s proposal would still allow for at least eight days, plus 30 hours of debate, to discuss legislation?

8. Why isn’t that enough time for a substantive debate?

9. What are the reasons, if any, that the Senate should not reform its filibuster rule?  

10. Isn’t there a tremendous cost associated with only allowing legislation with a supermajority in support to pass?

11. Don’t the current filibuster rules condemn us to a legislative system in which no substantive bill can become law without 60 votes?

12. What other proposals, if any, do you have for improving the functionality of the Senate?


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