The Senate talks filibuster reform | Arkansas Blog

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Senate talks filibuster reform

Posted By on Sat, Dec 29, 2012 at 6:38 AM

Why do I think all the talk of U.S. Senate filibuster reform will end up as nothing more than talk?

Ezra Klein notes an emerging bipartisan "reform" idea meant to blunt ideas for more meaningful reform.

I've mentioned before the fixthesenatenow movement to streamline the Senate procedures. What follows is a news release from the group working on the measure that highlights how the filibuster has hurt Arkansas, particularly in delays on confirmation of judicial nominations.

NEWS RELEASE

Arkansas & the Need for U.S. Senate Rules Reform

Judicial Obstruction in Arkansas & Nationally Makes Case for Reform; Poll Finds Arkansas Voters Back Proposed Senate Changes

Washington, DC — Arkansas is paying renewed attention to the subject of U.S. Senate rules reform. As Alex Daniels of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted, “Frustrated by what they view as a broken institution, a group of senators has revived a push to streamline the legislative process in the Senate and reduce the number of filibusters, a technique used by the minority party to stall legislation.” As the Senate rules reform debate heats up, the Fix the Senate Now coalition offers the following additional resources regarding Arkansas and Senate rules reform:

Arkansas Supports Senate Rules Reform: A recent poll conducted in Arkansas by Public Policy Polling (PPP) finds that 82% of those surveyed say the Senate “does not deal with important issues facing the country in a timely manner.” Arkansans support the major provisions of Senate rules reform — by a 52%-36% margin, voters back the concept of only allowing one opportunity to filibuster a bill instead of the four chances allowed under current Senate rules. Arkansans also support overwhelmingly a reform that would make Senators who want to filibuster a bill have to actually stand up and debate the bill on the Senate floor for as long as they want the filibuster to continue, backing this provision by a 65%-24% margin. Finally, the poll found broad support for the idea that “people who have been nominated to serve as judges have an up or down vote on their nominations in a more timely manner,” with 65% of respondents favoring that idea and only 24% opposed.. To access the poll: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/pdf/2011/ArkansasResultsFinal.pdf

Judicial Obstruction and Arkansas — Part of a National Story Making the Case for Rules Reform: A recent Washington Post article noted that “there are more vacancies on the federal courts now than when [President] Obama took office nearly four years ago.” The article echoed the findings in a recent Alliance for Justice (AFJ) report, which found that “nearly one out of eleven federal judgeships is vacant,” largely because of obstruction of even non-controversial nominees. The report highlights a disturbing rise in the number of “judicial emergencies” — district courts where the backlog of cases is particularly acute due to the lack of judges. . , A key proposed reform would address the nominations process, including shortening the amount of time allowed for debate once a nomination is brought to the Senate floor.

In Arkansas, 4 recent qualified and non-controversial nominees for district court vacancies waited as long as 10 months to be confirmed, despite the Administrative Office of the US Courts declaring 3 of the 4 vacancies were “judicial emergencies” because of the lack of judges and high caseloads.

o In the Eastern District of Arkansas, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted by unanimous voice vote to advance the nomination of D. Price Marshall Jr. in 2010, yet the nominee had to wait 151 days before confirmation.

o In the Western District of Arkansas, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted by unanimous voice vote to advance the nomination of Paul Holmes in 2010, yet the nominee had to wait 309 days before confirmation.

o In the Western District of Arkansas, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 13-3 to advance the nomination of Susan O. Hickey in 2011, yet the nominee had to wait 187 days before confirmation.

o In the Eastern District of Arkansas, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted by full committee voice vote to advance the nomination of Kristine Baker in 2011, yet the nominee had to wait 185 days before confirmation.

As Little Rock lawyer Nate Coulter said, "The explosion of the use of the filibuster means the Senate can't legislatively tackle the important issues facing our country. It also means that many important posts in the federal government that require Senate confirmation remain vacant for long stretches. Of particular importance to those of us who practice law in Arkansas is the effect of filibuster abuse on judicial appointments. Some very qualified nominees take many, many months to be confirmed.”

For more on the need for Senate rules reform, please visit www.fixthesenatenow.org

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