70 former senators have the same message for the Republican-controlled Senate: Do your job!
Seventy former senators, Democratic, Republican, and Independent alike, criticized current senators for failing to do their job in an open letter published Tuesday by The Washington Post—and they’re not wrong. “The Senate’s abdication of its legislative and oversight responsibilities erodes the checks and balances of the separate powers that are designed to protect the liberties on which our democracy depends,” the former legislators wrote.
They explained that while legislating is often a messy process akin to “sausage making,” they are concerned the Senate's failure goes beyond the usual unkemptness, rendering the whole process ineffective. The former senators wrote: “Senate committees have lost responsibility for writing legislation. Rules allowing extended debate, a feature of the Senate that is essential to protecting the rights of minorities, have been abused as the filibuster and cloture have shut down action on the Senate floor. It is now commonly said that it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate. This is new and obstructionist ...”
In the op-ed, the ex-senators detailed accounts of sitting senators who doubt whether there is any point to their service at all, and of prospective candidates thinking twice about running. “Filibusters are now threatened as a matter of course and are too readily acceded to,” the past lawmakers wrote. “Neither in committee nor on the floor do rank-and-file members have reasonable opportunities to advance their positions by voting on legislation.”
As an answer to what is often a problem of arrogance and childishness, the former senators called for a “bipartisan caucus of incumbent members” to aid in committee work as well as work on the Senate floor. “The Senate — and the proper functioning of our Republic — are simply too important to be allowed to continue on their present course,” the ex-legislators said.
The Post listed those who signed the letter as:
Dean Barkley (I-Minn.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), David Boren (D-Okla.), Bill Bradley (D-N.J.), Bill Brock (R-Tenn.), Hank Brown (R-Colo.), Richard Bryan (D-Nev.), James Buckley (R-N.Y.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), Max Cleland (D-Ga.), William Cohen (R-Maine), Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Jon Corzine (D-N.J.), Jack Danforth (R-Mo.), Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), David Durenberger (R-Minn.), Daniel Evans (R-Wash.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Wyche Fowler (D-Ga.), Slade Gorton (R-Wash.), Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Gary Hart (D-Colo.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Gordon Humphrey (I-N.H.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Bennett Johnston (D-La.), Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Paul Kirk (D-Mass.), Robert Krueger (D-Tex.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Carol Moseley Braun (D-Ill.), Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), David Pryor (D-Ark.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Donald Riegle (D-Mich.), Chuck Robb (D-Va.), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Ken Salazar (D-Colo.), Jim Sasser (D-Tenn.), Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Bob Torricelli (D-N.J.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), John Walsh (D-Mont.), John Warner (R-Va.), Lowell Weicker (I-Conn.), and Tim Wirth (D-Colo.)