Today’s Senate looks and functions very differently from the one we led as majority leaders. Our members were able to debate and amend legislation. Senators voted on and passed bills. We each personally cultivated strong friendships and working partnerships across the aisle. But legislating by consensus has been pushed aside in favor of polarized political maneuvering, and Americans are bearing the brunt of Congress’s dysfunction.
Both parties have legitimate gripes about how the Senate has degenerated into a polarized mess. Yet one’s take on the causes of gridlock and the options for fixing it tend to be based less in partisanship than on whether one is in the minority or majority. Contributing heavily to the partisan rancor and discord is the minority’s inability to offer amendments to pending legislation on the Senate floor and the majority’s inability to move forward with largely bipartisan legislation due to frequent filibusters. Too frequently the committee process is being bypassed, leaving members frustrated.
We each hope that our political party will control the Senate next year, but to craft targeted reforms that work, both parties will have to give up some of their political tactics. We propose a series of procedural reforms that would benefit both the majority and the minority, whichever party falls into each role. By extension, and most important, these reforms would benefit the American people. Our recommendations, published Tuesday as part of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Commission on Political Reform, aim to preserve minority rights in the Senate to participate meaningfully in the legislative process while also easing the gridlock that forestalls Congress’s ability to tackle important legislation.