The U.S. Senate has a unique and longstanding tradition of open, unlimited debate. The Senate rules, when not circumvented, are intended to ensure that the rights of the minority to debate and amend legislation are protected. That is why 60 votes are generally required to end debate on major legislation. It is also why the Senate so often operates by unanimous consent on less controversial measures, and reaches consent agreements between the parties to structure debate and amendments on more significant bills.
Over the years, there have been abuses of the filibuster on both sides of the aisle, and I have consistently worked to protect the rights of the minority whether I was serving in the minority or the majority.
In 2005, I strongly opposed a Republican plan to employ the so-called “nuclear option.” I was deeply concerned that, by adopting changes in the standing rules by a simple majority, party-line vote, the majority party would have had unprecedented power to limit debate and block Senators from offering amendments.
Today, I feel just as strongly about Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s move to stifle debate and exclude amendments from members, no matter on which side of the aisle they serve. That impedes careful consideration of the most important matters before Congress and is not in our country’s best interests.
My record is one of leading bipartisan efforts to address gridlock in the Senate without changing its fundamental rules and traditions. In fact, I helped lead the effort in 2011 to reform and streamline the Senate’s confirmation process. The confirmation of presidential nominations is a serious matter and a Constitutional duty. Under the Constitution, the President must seek the advice and consent of the Senate on nominations to our federal courts, the cabinet, and other significant positions. Not only is this an important exercise of the Senate’s oversight authority, but it also goes to the heart of our government’s system of checks and balances.
I am extremely disappointed in today’s vote, which will fundamentally change the Senate. It will only produce further partisanship and discourage efforts to forge consensus on the many difficult issues facing our nation.
Susan Collins is Maine’s senior United States Senator. She is the top Republican on the Homeland Security Committee and is currently running for her fourth term.