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Lautenberg Introduces the "Mr. Smith Bill" to Cut Through Senate Obstruction
Common Sense Legislation Would Force Filibustering Senators to Actually DebateLautenberg Press Office 202.224.3224
Wednesday, March 24, 2010WASHINGTON, D.C. — In response to the growing misuse of the filibuster as a tool to obstruct work in Congress, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) today announced introduction of the Mr. Smith Bill to require Senators who want to filibuster a bill to actually show up on the Senate floor and engage in debate. Once debate ends and Senators no longer seek to speak, the vote could be held immediately.
“If a Senator wants to delay our work in the Senate, then that Senator must show up on the floor and debate,” stated Sen. Lautenberg. “Filibusters should happen on Capitol Hill, not from the Capital Grille. If any of my colleagues feel strongly enough about a bill or nomination to stop all work in the Senate, they should have no problem standing on the Senate floor to explain their opposition to the American public. The American people want the Senate to get our economy back on track, not tie itself in knots with invisible filibusters that waste time and taxpayer resources.”
The Mr. Smith Bill would provide a tool to require actual debate on the Senate floor after cloture (a call for 60 votes to break a filibuster) is filed on motions, nominations or legislation. If, at any time, debate were to cease and a Senator or Senators conducting the filibuster give up the floor, the Majority Leader would be able to move for an immediate vote. The same would hold true for the 30 hours of post-cloture time attached to motions to proceed and executive nominations. Under current rules, Senators can filibuster and force the Senate to use up a week or more on a single nomination or bill, even if there is no debate occurring on the floor. Under the Lautenberg proposal, that time would be reduced significantly.
Republicans forced the majority to set a record of 112 cloture votes to break filibusters from 2007-2008 in the previous session of Congress. In this session of Congress, which started in 2009, the minority party has already forced 49 cloture votes.
The Mr. Smith Bill takes its name from the movie “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” in which the title character Jefferson Smith stands in the Senate chamber talking for hours to block a bill he strongly opposes.