Needed Reform for the U.S. Senate

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand participates in a meeting in New York, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. The meeting between politicians and
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand participates in a meeting in New York, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012. The meeting between politicians and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community was to discuss efforts to advance federal LGBT friendly legislation. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

As I've traveled throughout New York, one of the concerns I hear most from my constituents is a deep frustration with those in Congress. They feel that Washington is broken and unable to do the job we were elected to do. If voters sent one message on Election Day, it was that they are desperate for their elected representatives to work together to get things done for the people who pay their salaries.

If we're going to continue to grow the economy, create jobs, reduce the deficit and accomplish all the things the American people expect of us, we simply must get Washington working again. Which is why I am a strong supporter of efforts to reform the filibuster.

The fact is, as a consequence of unprecedented obstructionism during the last Congress, the filibuster was used more in two years than it had been in the 1950s, '60s and '70s combined. This is unacceptable.

In order to end this obstructionism, I'm working with Senators Jeff Merkley and Tom Udall to craft a rules package that a simple majority of the Senate would be able to pass at the beginning of the next Congress in January to institute some important reforms to how the U.S. Senate does business. While details are still being ironed out, my hope is that the new rules would include a ban of filibusters on the motion to proceed to debate on a bill as well as the requirement that Senators who wish to filibuster a bill go to the floor and actually make their voice heard on the issue.

Forcing Senators to stand up on the floor and talk openly in objection to Senate bills would not only reduce the number of filibusters brought by the minority, but it would also bring some much-needed transparency and openness to the filibuster process, which is now hidden behind closed doors. If one of my colleagues wants to block a bill, they should stand up in front of the American people and explain why.

I believe transparency in government is key to restoring our nation's faith in its elected leaders. This is why I became the first member of Congress ever to voluntarily post all earmark requests, financial disclosures and public schedules online. It is also why I led the fight to pass the STOCK Act, which prohibits members of Congress and their staffs from engaging in insider trading and ensures that members of Congress play by the same set of rules as everyone else. And it is why I fought with my Senate colleagues to end anonymous holds.

Our next fight is to reform the filibuster so we can have a functioning Senate while also preserving minority rights. But we're going to need your help as well. Please join me, Senator Merkley & Senator Tom Udall as well as several other of my colleagues in signing on to our Reform The Filibuster petition to show our opponents that the American people are firmly behind us in this fight to reform the filibuster and get the Senate working again.

If there's one silver lining of the unprecedented abuse of the filibuster, it's that it has increased the appetite for reform among many of my colleagues after our attempt at reform two years ago failed to gain enough votes. This time, I'm optimistic that, between the growing call for a functioning Congress and our new class of Freshman Senators -- eight of whom have expressed support for filibuster reform -- we can come to an agreement on how to change the rules and reform the filibuster in a responsible way that retains minority rights but also makes the Senate function better for the American people.