On December 18, 2010, for the first time in history, the DREAM Act came to a vote in the United States Senate. However, the bill never got to final passage. It was blocked by a Senate procedure called the filibuster. Under that Senate rule, legislation needs 60 votes to advance. So, while the DREAM Act garnered a majority, 55 – 41, it failed. The Senators who voted to filibuster the DREAM Act effectively shut the doors of opportunity to thousands of bright and talented young people who grew up in America and wanted to give back to the country they call home.
Common Cause believes the filibuster is unconstitutional and is suing the U.S. Senate over its use and abuse of that rule. And because of what happened on December 18, 2010, some impressive DREAMers have joined the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes at a time of increased partisan gridlock in the Senate and amid complaints the filibuster is being abused by minority Republicans.
From 1981 to 2006, both parties used the filibuster when they were in the minority. During that period, the majority party in each Congress filed fewer than 90 cloture motions to overcome a filibuster by the minority.
But since Democrats seized power in fall 2006, Republicans have turned to the filibuster far more frequently. The majority has averaged about 140 cloture motions in both the 110th and 111th Congress. And Democrats are on pace to repeat that feat again this Congress.
In early 2011, an effort by junior Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) to water down the filibuster failed in the face of opposition from more senior lawmakers. Part of the reason it’s been so difficult to overhaul the filibuster is because it requires two-thirds of senators – or 67 votes – to make any changes to Senate rules.
“They are putting the Senate in a straitjacket,” said Stephen Spaulding, staff counsel for Common Cause. “They cannot adopt their own rules, and that’s an issue we think the courts should settle.”
DRM Capitol, which has been bird-dogging Mitt Romney around the country, issued this strong statement yesterday, ahead of the press conference announcing the lawsuit:
The lives of thousandths of youth from all over the country, who constantly live in fear of deportation, were depending on this legislation to pass. However, despite the fact that 70% of Americans support the DREAM Act and the House passed the bill with a majority vote, it failed to pass in the Senate due to the filibuster rule.
Although a majority, 55 Senators, voted yes, a minority blocked this DREAM from becoming a reality.The DREAM Act is only one of many important bills receiving majority support from both houses only to fall prey to filibuster. DREAMers and DRM Capitol Group members will join as plaintiffs to send a strong message that obstructionist politics will no longer find a place in our democracy.