The 70

Seventy former U.S. senators – Democrats and Republicans – wrote an open letter to their current colleagues in the Senate about the abdication of their Constitutional duties.

Background –

As reported by The Hill (Dec. 2019), “This is the pile of House-passed bills, 90% bipartisan, dead on [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell’s desk in the Senate #LegislativeGraveyard,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said in a Wednesday morning tweet that featured a photo of a stack of papers labeled “Bills stuck in the Senate.”

Majority Leader McConnell should allow a vote on my #FairDrugPricing Act to take on big drug companies and help lower the cost of medicine people depend on.

My reform passed the House last week and we should have a vote in the Senate and get it done. #ForThePeople. pic.twitter.com/B2mhyBjDM3

— Sen. Tammy Baldwin (@SenatorBaldwin) December 18, 2019

As a result of all the inaction, seventy former Senators addressed their colleagues.

Key passages –

“Congress is not fulfilling its constitutional duties. Much of the responsibility rests on the Senate. We are writing to encourage the creation of a bipartisan caucus of incumbent senators who would be committed to making the Senate function as the Framers of the Constitution intended.

“As their first priority, the Framers explicitly entrusted all legislative responsibility in Article I of the Constitution: ‘All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.’ To the extent that Congress doesn’t function as the Framers intended, policy-making is left to the less democratic executive and judicial branches.

“…the partisan gridlock that is all too routine in recent decades has led the executive branch to effectively ‘legislate’ on its own terms through executive order and administrative regulation. 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.

“Anecdotally, we have been told by sitting members that the diminished state of the Senate has left them doubting whether there is any point in continuing to serve, and it has caused potential candidates to question whether the reality of Senate membership is worth the considerable effort and expense of running for office. …

“Our concern is that the legislative process is no longer working in the Senate. Several factors may be cited: 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; it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture in the once relatively exceptional event of a filibuster. Filibusters are now threatened as a matter of course and are too readily acceded to. …

“We believe a bipartisan caucus of incumbent members that promotes a fair opportunity for senators to participate in meaningful committee work as well as on the Senate floor could help restore the Senate to its essential place in our constitutional system. Its members would need to stand firm in the face of what could be strong opposition from partisans who prefer politicians who take intransigent positions over those who champion a legislative process that celebrates compromise.”

But the 70 go further –

“… We, who once held the office you now hold and who are confident that service in the U.S. Senate is as high a calling for you as it was for us, will stand up for you against any partisan opposition. We will do so publicly and repeatedly in whatever available forums. And we are convinced that many ordinary Americans will stand up for you as well, as they share our concern for the state of our government.

“We know that accepting this challenge may put some of you at political risk. But we are also confident that each of you chose to serve in public life to advance the cause of a ‘more perfect union.’ Our hope is that all of you will accept this challenge to advance that timeless and higher purpose. The Senate — and the proper functioning of our republic — are simply too important to be allowed to continue on their present course.”

Short version –

Senators: DO YOUR JOB!

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