Alexander Says Democratic Effort to Change Filibuster Is 'Election Nullification'

Defends “Democracy’s finest show … the right to talk your head off” and calls on Senate to take steps to “restore the years of Sens. Baker and Byrd”

Posted on January 4, 2011

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“Voters who turned out in November are going to be pretty disappointed when they learn the first thing some Democrats want to do is cut off the right of the people they elected to make their voices heard on the floor of the U.S. Senate.” – Lamar Alexander 

WASHINGTON – In his keynote speech today at the Heritage Foundation on Democratic efforts to end or limit the filibuster in the Senate, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said that voter anger this past November was as much about “how it was done” as it was about the substance of the new health care law. Alexander said voters “remember the passage of the health care law on Christmas Eve, 2009: midnight sessions; voting in the midst of a snow storm; backroom deals; little time to read, amend or debate the bill; passage by a straight party-line vote.”

“Minority voices were silenced,” Alexander continued. “Those who didn’t like it were told, ‘You can read it after we pass it.’ The majority’s attitude was, ‘We won the election. We’ll write the bill. We don’t need your votes.’ And, of course, the result was a law that a majority of voters consider to be an historic mistake and the beginning of an immediate effort to repeal and replace it.”

Alexander called on the Senate to take three steps that focus more broadly on the Senate changing “its behavior, not … its rules,” in order to “restore the years of Senators Baker and Byrd, when most bills that came to the floor were first considered in committee, when more amendments were considered, debated and voted upon.”

First, “recognize that there has to be bipartisan cooperation and consensus on important issues. The day of ‘we won the election, we jam the bill through’ will have to” end. Second, because “every Senate insider knows that a major reason why the majority cuts off amendments and debate is because Democratic members don’t want to vote on controversial issues … we should say, ‘If you don’t want to vote, then don’t run for the Senate.” And finally, Alexander suggested an end to the “three-day work week,” which makes it impossible “either for the minority to have the opportunity to offer, debate and vote on amendments or for the majority to forcefully confront a filibuster if every senator knows there will never be a vote on Friday.”

Click here for the full text of the speech, titled “The filibuster: Democracy’s finest show . . . the right to talk your head off,” or click here for video of the speech.

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