Politics & Elections
The Abuse of Cloture Motions PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Politics & Elections
Written by Sen. Charles Grassley   
Friday, 20 December 2013 08:54

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
“The Abuse of Cloture Motions”

Wednesday, December 19, 2013

The Senate is poised to vote on a final National Defense Authorization Act after considering only two amendments.

The Senate has not been functioning like it should for some time and the way the National Defense Authorization Act has been handled is just one example.

I’ve served in the majority and the minority with Democratic Presidents and Republican Presidents so I’ve seen it operate from every perspective.

What’s unique about the Senate is that the rules and traditions force senators to work together.

That leads senators to understand where the other side is coming from, resulting in mutual respect and comity.

I hear from a lot of Iowans who are upset at the tone they hear from Washington and the lack of bipartisanship.

I’ve often said that the Senate functions best when no party has more than about 55 seats.

If you have much more than that, there is less of a tendency to want to work in a bipartisan fashion.

That was true for most of my time in the Senate, but not now.

Despite a current margin of just 5 seats in the Senate, there has been very little bipartisan cooperation.

I suppose some Democratic senators really believe it when they say that this is all Republicans’ fault.

I think anyone who remembers how the Senate used to operate and has paid attention to how the current majority leadership has been running things, knows better.

In fairness, quite a few members of the Senate don’t remember how the Senate is supposed to operate because it has been dysfunctional ever since they were elected.

Some senators previously served in the House of Representatives, where the majority party controls everything that happens.

In the House of Representatives, the Rules Committee sets out the terms of debate for each bill.

If you want to offer an amendment in the House, you have to go hat in hand to the Rules Committee and say, “Mother may I?”

If the House leadership doesn’t like your amendment, you’re out of luck.

If that sounds familiar, that’s because it is how the current Senate leadership has been running things lately.

We have seen an absolutely unprecedented use, or I would say abuse, of cloture motions paired with a tactic called “filling the tree” to block amendments being considered.

That not only affects the minority party, but Democratic senators as well.

I would say to my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, how many times have you had an amendment you wanted to offer that was important to your state, but you couldn’t do it because amendments were blocked?

The Senate Majority Leader has effectively become a one man version of the House Rules Committee, dictating what amendments will be debated and which ones will never see the light of day.

This strips the ability of individual senators to effectively represent their state, regardless of party.

It also virtually guarantees that any legislation the Senate votes on will be more partisan in nature.

I would ask my colleagues across the aisle, isn’t your first responsibility to the people of your state, not your party leadership?

Are you really content to cede to your party leader the trust and responsibility placed in you by the voters of your state?

How much longer can you go along with this?

The people of Iowa sent me to the United States Senate to represent them, not to simply vote up or down on a purely partisan agenda dictated by the Majority Leader.

Everyone complains about the lack of bipartisanship these days, but there is no opportunity for individual senators to work together across the aisle when legislation is drafted on a partisan basis and amendments are blocked.

Bipartisanship requires giving individual senators a voice, regardless of party.

When senators are only allowed to vote on items that are pre-approved by the Majority Leader, they lose the ability to effectively represent their state and become mere tools of their party leadership.

It’s no wonder Americans are so cynical about government now.

In the last decade, when I was Chairman of the Finance Committee, and Republicans controlled the Senate, we wanted to actually get things done.

In order for that to happen, we knew we had to accommodate the minority.

We had to have patience, humility, and respect for the minority, attributes that don’t exist on the other side anymore.

And we had some major bipartisan accomplishments, from the largest tax cut in history to a Medicare prescription drug program to numerous trade agreements.

Those kind of major bills don’t happen anymore.

The Senate rules provide that any senator may offer an amendment regardless of party affiliation.

Each senator represents hundreds of thousands to millions of Americans and each has an individual right to offer amendments for consideration.

The principle here isn’t about political parties having their say, but duly elected senators participating in the legislative process.

Again, as part of our duty to represent the citizens of our respective states, each senator has an individual right to offer amendments.

This right cannot be outsourced to party leaders.

The longstanding tradition of the Senate is that members of the minority party, as well as rank and file members of the majority party, have an opportunity to offer amendments for a vote by the Senate.

That has historically been the case with the annual National Defense Authorization Act, but not this year.

It typically takes a couple weeks to consider the National Defense Authorization Act.

This year, the majority party leadership chose to wait until a week before the scheduled Thanksgiving recess to bring it up, leaving little time for the customary open debate and amendment process.

Once the Defense Bill was brought up, rather than promptly starting to process amendments, the Majority Leader immediately blocked amendments so he could control what came up for a vote.

The Senate ground to a halt, wasting time we didn’t have when we could have been considering amendments from both sides.

This process, as everyone here in the Senate knows, is called “filling the tree” where the majority leader offers blocker amendments that block any other senator from offering their own amendment unless he agrees to set his blocker amendments aside.

“Filling the tree” doesn’t appear anywhere in the Senate rules.

It’s based on combining two precedents- the precedent that the Majority Leader has first right of recognition by the presiding officer and the precedent that only one first degree and one second degree amendment can be pending at any one time.

Basically, the Majority Leader abuses his prerogative to cut in line and offer an amendment that does nothing more than, say, change the enacting date by one day for instance.

That then blocks any other senator from exercising their right to offer an amendment.

This so called filling the tree tactic used to be relatively rare, but it has become routine under the current leadership.

This way, the Democratic leadership can prevent other senators from offering amendments they don’t want to have to vote on.

Then, with amendments blocked, the Majority Leader makes a motion to bring debate to a close, or “cloture”.

When cloture is invoked, it sets up a limited time before a final vote must take place.

By keeping amendments blocked while running out that clock, the majority leader can force a final vote on a bill without having to consider any amendments other than what he approves.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that members of the minority party who wish to offer amendments will vote against the motion to end debate until their amendments have been considered.

When Republicans vote against the Democratic leader’s motion to end debate, we are accused of “launching a filibuster”.

In other words, unless we give up our right to participate fully in the legislative process, they say we are filibustering.

Does that really count as a filibuster?


The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has a helpful report on cloture motions and filibusters that makes this point clear.

The CRS Report, “Cloture Attempts on Nominations: Data and Historical Development” by Richard S. Beth contains an entire section titled, “Cloture Motions Do Not Correspond with Filibusters.”

It starts out, “Although cloture affords the Senate a means for overcoming a filibuster, it is erroneous to assume that cases in which cloture is sought are always the same as those in which a filibuster occurs. Filibusters may occur without cloture being sought, and cloture may be sought when no filibuster is taking place. The reason is that cloture is sought by supporters of a matter, whereas filibusters are conducted by its opponents.”

It then goes on to explain various scenarios to illustrate this point.

Several members of the majority have made a point of trying to confuse cloture motions with filibusters.

We hear constantly that there have been an unprecedented number of Republican filibusters.

They often point to a chart that purports to tally the number of filibusters and say that it is evidence of abuse of the Senate rules.

That number they quote is the number of cloture motions, not filibusters.

It’s true that there have been a record number of cloture motions, and I also agree that the number amounts to an egregious abuse of the Senate rules.

But, again, cloture motions do not correspond with filibusters.


Cloture motions are filed by the majority party leadership, not the minority party.

This abuse of cloture is a major cause of the Senate’s current dysfunction.

Again, this abuse of cloture, often combined with the blocking of amendments, prevents all senators from doing what they were sent here to do, not just members of the minority party.

And, it’s gotten even worse.

Even where the Majority Leader has decided he’s going to be open to amendments, he has created, out of whole cloth, new restrictions to limit senators’ rights.

First, he normally only opens up the amendment process if there’s an agreement to limit amendments.

And, this is usually only a handful or so.

Then, he has magically determined that only “germane” or “relevant” amendments can be considered.

Of course, no where do the Senate rules require this, other than post cloture.

Senators elected in the last few years appear to be ignorant of this fact.

You’ll hear some senators here argue against an amendment saying it’s non-germane or non-relevant.

They’ve totally fallen for the Majority Leader’s creative rulemaking, thus giving up one of their rights as a senator with which to represent their state.

I can’t count how many non-germane or non-relevant amendments I had to allow voted on when I processed bills when Republicans were in charge.

They were usually tough, political votes, but we took them because we wanted to get things done.

You don’t see that nowadays.

The current majority avoids tough votes at all costs.

And that’s why they don’t get much done.

The American people sent us here to represent them.

That means voting, not avoiding tough votes.

We sometimes hear that this is a question of majority rule versus minority obstruction.

Again, that ignores that each senator is elected to represent their state, not simply to be an agent of their party.

While a majority of senators may be from one party, they represent very different states and the agenda of the majority leader will not always be consistent with the interests of their states.

When one individual, the Senate Majority Leader, controls what comes up for a vote, that is not majority rule.

In fact, there are policies that have majority support in the Senate that have been denied a vote.

What happened during Senate debate on the budget resolution seems to prove that point.

The special rules for the Budget Resolution limit debate, so it can’t be filibustered, but allow for unlimited amendments.

A Republican amendment in support of repealing the tax on life-saving medical devices in President Obama’s health care law passed by an overwhelming 79 to 20, with more than half of Democrats voting with Republicans, rather than their party leader.

A Republican amendment in support of approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline to bring oil from Canada passed 62 to 37.

Votes like these that split the Democrats and hand a win to Republicans are exactly what the majority leader has been trying to avoid by blocking amendments.

That’s why the Senate didn’t take up a budget resolution for more than three years.

Still, the Budget Resolution isn’t a law so unless legislation on these issues is allowed to come up for a vote, nothing will happen despite the support of a majority of the Senate.

A case in point is the National Defense Authorization Act we are considering now.

One of the amendments the Majority Leader blocked would have imposed sanctions on the Iranian regime.

Everyone knew that this amendment enjoys broad bipartisan support and would have passed easily had it been allowed a vote.

It had majority support, but the Senate was not allowed to work its will.


The Iran sanctions amendment was blocked because the President opposed it and it would have been a tough vote that divided Democrats.

Is that a valid reason for shutting down the traditional open amendment process for the Defense Bill?

I don’t think so

Until we put an end to the abuse of cloture and the blocking of amendments, the Senate cannot function properly and the American people will continue to lack the representation they are entitled to.

Anderson announces plan to beat Minnesota in voter turnout PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Politics & Elections
Written by Sam Roecker   
Thursday, 19 December 2013 14:44
DES MOINES, Iowa – Today, Iowa Secretary of State candidate Brad Anderson announces his plan to increase turnout in Iowa’s elections and his goal to be number one in the nation in voter turnout within a decade.  Anderson’s announcement includes a partnership with Mike Draper, owner of Des Moines’ iconic t-shirt store RAYGUN.  Draper designed a limited edition t-shirt available on www.AndersonForIowa.com to coincide with the announcement.

“Iowa has a proud reputation for civic participation, but there is always room to improve when it comes to voter turnout,” said Anderson.  “I believe the time has come for Iowa to take the reigns as number one in the nation in voter turnout, and I have a plan to get us there within the next decade.”

Since 1980, Minnesota has led the nation in turnout in 13 of 17 elections – including the last nine straight election cycles. [Humphrey School of Public Affairs, 12/16/08; University of Virginia Center for Politics, 11/11/10; Washington Post, 3/12/13]  In 2012, Minnesota led the nation with turnout of 76.1% of eligible voters.  This means Iowa would have needed 43,423 more voters to vote during the last presidential election in order to take the reigns as the national leader in voter turnout.

“Minnesota has done a terrific job in turning out voters, and I give their Secretary of State Mark Ritchie a lot of credit for making civic participation a top priority,” said Anderson.  “That said, Minnesota has had their turn – it’s now Iowa’s turn to be number one.”

Anderson is excited to partner with RAYGUN’s Mike Draper on a limited edition t-shirt highlighting the campaign.  “Mike is a highly creative, talented guy and I am grateful he shares my passion for voting rights and civic participation,” said Anderson.  The shirt will be available for a limited time for all contributors who donate at least $30 to Anderson for Iowa. 

"If there's one thing I take seriously, it is Iowa's perpetual competition with Minnesota,” said Mike Draper, founder of RAYGUN. “We finally have someone running for Secretary of State that is committed to closing the voter turnout gap. All we need after doing that is a nationally syndicated public radio show and we can declare victory."

  • Step 1: Simplify the Vote by Mail Process. Currently, Iowa voters must fill out a form and request to vote by mail for each election.  Anderson supports allowing voters to sign up to vote-by-mail and check a box to automatically receive a ballot in the mail every election.  This will save local auditors time processing requests and boost turnout among voters who regularly vote by mail but sometimes forget to request ballots ahead of time.

  • Step 2:  Online Voter Registration. Currently 13 states offer online voter registration and there is no reason Iowa should remain on the sidelines.  Online voter registration has proven to be secure and saves local auditors time and taxpayers money.  In this day and age, we pay our bills and even get drivers licenses online, so we can find a way to harness the power of the Internet to register to vote.

  • Step 3: Create and Promote an Election Info Hub. Work with local auditors to provide a one-stop Election Information Hub for voters to check on accurate dates, times and polling locations for local and statewide elections.  Utilize social media and traditional media outlets to promote the Election Information Hub to Iowa voters.

  • Step 4: Reduce Number of Elections. Reduce voter fatigue and apathy by reducing the number of elections.  Over the last year many voters in Iowa were asked to vote in more than a half-dozen separate elections, ranging from special elections, to school board elections to municipal elections to runoff elections.  Combining many small elections into larger elections will increase turnout and save taxpayers time and money in the process.

  • Step 5: Do No Harm. Over the past several decades Iowa Republicans and Democrats have passed and signed laws to make it easier to vote.  Rather than chipping away at our voting laws and passing expensive, unnecessary bills that would make it more difficult for Iowans to vote, as Secretary of State I will devote our time and resources to finding ways to strengthen the integrity of our elections and get more Iowans to turnout for our elections.


Loebsack Statement on Tom Latham’s Retirement Announcement PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Politics & Elections
Written by Joe Hand   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:28

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after Rep. Tom Latham (IA-04) announced that he will be retiring from the House of Representatives at the end of 2014.  Loebsack has served with Latham since 2007.

“The people of Iowa are losing a determined, hard-working advocate in Tom Latham. I have always enjoyed working with Tom to advance our state’s priorities and to ensure our residents have the best representation in Washington. I join with my colleagues both here in Iowa and Washington in wishing Tom and his family all the best.”


Gov. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Reynolds issue statement on Rep. Latham's decision not to seek reelection PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Politics & Elections
Written by Jimmy Centers   
Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:27
(DES MOINES) - Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds today issued the following statement upon learning of Congressman Tom Latham’s intention not to seek reelection in 2014 in Iowa’s Third Congressional District:

“I want to thank Congressman Tom Latham for his service to the people of Iowa. For nearly twenty years, Tom has been a dedicated public servant for the citizens he represents. His voice of Iowa common sense and willingness to work across the aisle is a model for how good government should function.”

Lt. Governor Reynolds added, “I was disappointed to hear Congressman Tom Latham had chosen not to seek reelection in 2014. As a business owner and a lifelong Iowan, Tom served as a tried and true voice for Iowans in Congress.”

Rep. Tyler Olson Ends His Campaign for Governor PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - Politics & Elections
Written by Alex Youn   
Tuesday, 17 December 2013 16:29

CEDAR RAPIDS – Today, Rep. Tyler Olson released the following statement regarding his campaign for Governor: 

Thank you to everyone that reached out with words of encouragement and support the last two weeks. While focused on supporting my children through the transition in my personal life it is clear they need my full attention. It is time to end my campaign for Governor.

I will continue to focus on my family, finish my term as state representative, rejoin Paulson Electric and look for opportunities to serve my community as time allows.
Thank you to all the friends, supporters and volunteers that joined my campaign. I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope you still believe as I do that Iowa's brightest days are ahead.
Best wishes for a peaceful and bright holiday season.

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