House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is using Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) one-man filibuster of a package to extend unemployment and health benefits and highway programs to renew his argument that the Senate needs to change the way it does business.
The Maryland Democrat raised eyebrows in late January when, channeling mounting House Democratic frustration at gridlock in the opposite chamber, declared the process there “broken” and said it “cannot stand.”
Hoyer revived the criticism in gentler terms on Tuesday, pointing to the fact that even Senate Republicans were starting to distance themselves from Bunning’s crusade to block the benefits package. “The processes of the United States Senate where they have one out of 100 stopping action shows why it’s necessary to go back to the concept, tried and true, of having majorities in either house have the ability to act,” he said, adding that the chamber “has got to come to a place where the Senate has the ability to function.”
Hoyer declined to endorse any specific rules change — some Democratic lawmakers and outside groups, for example, have pushed to lower the 60-vote threshold necessary to overcome a filibuster — but said Senators in both parties “really need to do some very careful thinking … on how they can provide for the Senate to be a body that can act when a majority of that body believes acting is appropriate.”
House Democrats are still working to resolve internal disputes over how to move forward with a $15 billion jobs package that the Senate approved last week. Hoyer said the House could take the bill up as soon as Wednesday, but more likely on Thursday “if we can get agreement.” A House Democratic aide said passage of that measure would preclude the need for one piece of the package that Bunning is holding up — the extension of funding for highway projects.