Democrats want new rules in the Senate

Dec. 24, 2010 at 5:34 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- Most Democratic senators want to make filibusters more difficult when the U.S. Senate reconvenes in January and to end the practice of "secret holds."

A letter to the party leadership on Dec. 18 was signed by 56 Democrats and independents, almost the entire caucus, The New York Times reported. The group suggested Republicans are abusing the current rules.

The minority does not have to hold a filibuster to block a bill from a vote, instead calling for a vote to close debate, which requires 60 votes. Republicans have done that 90 times in two years.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., told the Times he plans to call for a vote on rule changes when the new session starts. He and other Democrats argue that requires only a simple majority.

Democrats want a requirement that senators would have to be on the floor for a debate. They would also like to bar their colleagues from placing holds on bills or nominations, a practice that dates back to an era when getting to Washington took days or weeks.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., warned Democrats to be cautious.

"You don't want to create a freight train running through the Senate like it does in the House because in two years it might be the Tea Party Express," he said. "We need a change in behavior more than a change in rules."

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