On November 15th, brooklynbadboy wrote the diary Elizabeth Warren argues strongly for filibuster reform. In it, he noted that Diane Feinstein expressed skepticism and urged her constituents to contact her to express strong support for reform. Immediately after reading his diary, I did just that. To her credit, I received the following thoughtful response from her office.
Dear Mr. _____:After reading her response, it is clear that she won't be joining Elizabeth Warren's call to address meaningful reform anytime soon. She obviously agrees that the use of the filibuster is out of control, but she offers little in the way of real solutions. Most notably she tries to reassure me that Harry Read and Mitch McConnell have entered into an informal agreement on curbing the abuse, however given the fact that Mitch McConnell is an obstructionist of the highest order, the idea that an oily handshake deal with him will solve anything is laughable.
Thank you for contacting me concerning the use of filibusters in the United States Senate. I appreciate hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to respond.
The filibuster is a long-standing Senate practice that allows a Senator unlimited time to speak on the floor of the Senate. Current Senate rules allow for three-fifths of the Senate to vote to invoke cloture to limit consideration of a bill or nomination and break a "procedural filibuster." By providing the minority in the Senate an instrument for extending debate on nominations and bills, the filibuster can serve a vital role in protecting the rights of the minority and encouraging the majority to seek compromise.
In the long history of the Senate, the filibuster has been an important tool for both parties when in the minority. For example, in December 21, 2005, Democrats in the Senate, using a procedural filibuster, blocked an amendment to a defense reauthorization bill which would have allowed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), some of our nation's most precious wilderness.
I share your concerns over the recent, unprecedented increase in the use of the filibuster. Debate is at the heart of a deliberate body like the Senate; however, in the 111th Congress, legislative action was subjected to extraordinary levels of obstruction by the minority party. According to the Congressional Research Service, the Senate voted on cloture on a motion to proceed 64 times during the last two Congresses. To be clear, this means that the minority party was obstructing even debating legislation.
You may be interested to know that the Senate has considered a number of bills in the 112th Congress to reform the filibuster process and cut down on the use of delay tactics. S.Res. 29, which was introduced by Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), will waive the reading of an amendment if the amendment has been submitted at least 72 hours before the motion and is available in print or electronic form. The Senate also passed S.Res. 28, introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), to address the practice of secret holds. Secret holds are an informal device which permit a single Senator or any number of Senators to stop floor consideration of measures that are available to be scheduled by the Senate. This new rule will require any Senator objecting to proceeding to a bill or nomination to publicly disclose the objection within two days of the senate being in session.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also entered into an informal agreement in which Senator McConnell agreed to reduce the use of the filibuster by the minority and in return, Senator Reid agreed to allow more amendments from the minority to be considered on the Senate floor.
Be assured that I share your concerns on the unprecedented use of the filibuster, but I believe that Congress must be cautious about any dramatic changes to the rules. The filibuster serves an integral role in protecting the rights of the minority, which can change from one Congress to the next. Please know that I appreciate your thoughts on this matter and will keep your comments in mind should the Senate further consider the use of the filibuster.
Once again, thank you for writing to me. If you have any additional questions or comments, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.
United States Senator
Yes, I would have been "interested to know" that there have been several bills introduced in the 112th congress had I not already known that. Neither bill she references will fully do what needs to be done. Her tone suggests that I advocate scrapping or limiting sensible use of the filibuster. If she thinks that, she is mistaken. Yes, the filibuster is an important tool when used the way it was designed. However, the unprecedented abuse the Republicans have heaped on our system with the use of the filibuster cannot stand. Reform needs to happen and happen quickly if we are to hope that Senate gridlock won't be repeated in the next congress.
I haven't entirely given up on Diane Feinstein. I am in the midst of writing a response to her. Hopefully I will get some good feedback here that I can include. This is a fight worth having and it is important that we all fully involve ourselves.
Updated to include the following contact information cany thoughtfully provided in comments.
Please feel free to call or write the office nearest you, or you can visit one of the offices between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. We are here to serve you.
One Post Street, Suite 2450
San Francisco, CA 94104
Phone: (415) 393-0707
Fax: (415) 393-0710
The following counties are served by the San Francisco office: Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mendocino, Modoc, Monterey, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Yolo, Yuba.
11111 Santa Monica Blvd., Suite 915
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: (310) 914-7300
Fax: (310) 914-7318
The following counties are served by the Los Angeles office: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Ventura.
750 B Street, Suite 1030
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 231-9712
Fax: (619) 231-1108
The following counties are served by the San Diego office: Imperial, San Diego.
2500 Tulare Street, Suite 4290
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: (559) 485-7430
Fax: (559) 485-9689
The following counties are served by the Fresno office: Alpine, Amador, Calaveras, Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Mono, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne.
Here is a direct link to her e-mail page.
I recommend writing an e-mail, and follow that up with a call.
Five minutes, you're done.
Thank you cany!