Al Franken: "Republicans Don't Want People to Get Jobs" Before the Election
This post originally appeared on Think Progress.
Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) fired up progressive activists as the closing speaker at the fifth annual Netroots Nation conference on Saturday evening. He jokingly called the gathering “the most exciting political gathering of the year without guns” and told the gathering to keep fighting and pushing elected officials.
A few hours before the event, ThinkProgress sat down with Franken and asked him about the public’s frustration with the Senate’s gridlock. Franken told us that the new Senate will likely take up filibuster reform next year, an effort that he supports. He also discussed the need for other procedural reforms:
TP: Is there any other ideas that aren’t being talked about as much that you think would help the Senate be more productive?
FRANKEN: Well, I think there are, you know, a lot of this is procedural reform on how you offer amendments, and again, obviously, on cloture, and filibusters, and how many hours you have to have of debate even after cloture. One easy idea is, you have to wait 30 hours after a cloture vote to vote, because there’s supposedly 30 hours of debate. Well, sometimes they’ve had cloture votes where it’s — we’ve had to vote cloture on something that isn’t controversial at all, like a nominee who ends up passing 98-nothing. There’s no debate over the next 30 hours. So, you could say, I mean, one easy reform would be, say, either side or both sides can give up 15 hours. So, instead of it being 30 hours, it’s 15 hours. I mean, a lot of all of this was just to slow-foot, to slow things down.
In a clear example of Republicans trying to “slow things down,” the Washington Post notes today that the Senate GOP — along with a few conservative Democrats — “have blocked measures that would offer summer jobs to teenagers, give aid to states to prevent layoffs of teachers and other state employees, and expand funding of Pell grants — arguing that all would raise the budget deficit.” Franken attributed their obstruction to crass partisan motives:
And Republicans sort of take this stance that the best thing we can do is slow everything down so as little can happen as possible, so that we can both blame Democrats for not having stuff happen, like jobs bills and stuff like that. And so that, you know, I mean sometimes it’d be a legitimate difference of opinion on something, but sometimes it’s been ridiculous. But I do think that this whole approach of slowing everything down, in many ways I think it’s so that, they don’t want a jobs bill because they don’t want people to get jobs before the election. It’s a harsh thing to say, and I don’t want to impugn the motives of my colleagues, but I don’t get what they’re doing otherwise.
Franken has had experience with the filibuster dating back to before he was even seated as a U.S. senator. As Republicans attempted to drag out the recount process in Minnesota (even though it became clear that Franken was the winner of the election), the GOP promised to filibuster any attempt to seat Franken early.