SCHUMER ANNOUNCES FORMER VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE AS FIRST WITNESS FOR RULES COMMITTEE FILIBUSTER HEARING
Hearing to Focus on the Senate’s Use of the Filibuster and Its Consequences
Mondale Led Efforts in 1975 to Cut Off Filibusters with 60 Votes
Former Senator Don Nickles Also Expected to Testify
WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, announced that former Vice President and Senator Walter Mondale will be a witness at the second in a series of hearings on the Senate filibuster. Mondale will discuss the filibuster in the Senate today and the conditions that led to the 1975 amendment that lowered the threshold for ending filibusters from two-thirds of Senators voting to 60. The hearing, titled “Examining the Filibuster: The Filibuster Today and Its Consequences,” will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 19th, in SR-301 in the Russell Senate Office Building.
“There’s no former living Senator who can give us more historical insight into the evolution of the filibuster than Vice President Mondale,” said Schumer. “He played a pivotal role not once, but twice, in amending the Senate filibuster rules.”
Another former Senator, Don Nickles, is also expected to testify at the hearing. Senator Nickles is Chairman and CEO of The Nickles Group in Washington, DC. During his 24 years in the Senate, he served as chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and ten years in the Republican leadership. Other witnesses will be Norman J. Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research and co-author of “The Broken Branch: How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track,”and Steven Smith, professor of political science and director of the Murray Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government and Public Policy at Washington University in St. Louis.
In early 1975 while Mondale served in the Senate, he successfully led the bipartisan debate which amended Senate Rule XXII, called the cloture rule, to reduce the number of Senators needed to invoke cloture, or cut off debate. The Senate first determined it could change its own rules by a simple majority. Reaction to that vote, which was later rescinded, ultimately resulted in a compromise in which the Senate agreed to move from two-thirds of the Senators present and voting, a maximum of 67 Senators, to three-fifths of all Senators, which set the current 60 vote threshold for cloture that exists today.
After that change, however, some Senators started to engage in “post-cloture” filibusters, which prevented the Senate from voting on a bill even after cloture had been invoked. Before 1979, the only restriction in Rule XXII was the limit of one hour per Senator for debate. There was no limit to post-cloture consideration, which included offering amendments, forcing quorum calls, and holding roll call votes. In 1977, two Senators used post-cloture consideration to filibuster a proposal to deregulate natural gas prices that lasted 13 days and one night, and which included 121 roll call votes and 34 live quorums.
Mondale became Vice President and President of the Senate the same year and, along with then-Majority Leader and current Senator Robert Byrd, played a crucial role in shutting down the post-cloture filibuster of the natural gas proposal. This became the main impetus to efforts in 1979 to further amend the cloture rule to place stricter limits on post-cloture debate, restricting total post-cloture debate time to 100 hours.
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