Sworn In For New Term, Gillibrand Announces New Reform Strategy To Bring Transparency And Accountability To Washington
Gillibrand to Focus on Reforming Senate Through Filibuster Reform, Earmark Transparency, Ending Anonymous Holds and Automatic Congressional Pay Raises
Washington, DC – After earning 63 percent of the vote and being sworn in for a new two year term in the United States Senate this week, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced a new strategy to promote transparency and accountability in the new Congress. With a mandate from New Yorkers for action to create jobs and foster economic growth, Senator Gillibrand is planning an aggressive legislative agenda to change the way business is done in Washington by reforming the filibuster, bringing new transparency to the earmark process, banning anonymous holds, and ending automatic pay raises for Members of Congress.
“This election was not a mandate for any one party, but a mandate for action that creates jobs. All New Yorkers and all Americans want this Congress to get to work right away on real solutions that will create good-paying jobs and get our economy growing,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We can’t afford more of the same partisan fighting that wastes taxpayer time, slows our economic recovery and costs us jobs. It’s time now to get serious about fixing our economy for the long term and getting New Yorkers back to work, and it starts by bringing real transparency and accountability to the legislative process to ensure our government is focused on the people’s business, not partisan politics.”
Senator Gillibrand announced the following legislative priorities to start the new Congress:
1. Reforming the Filibuster
The filibuster has transformed from a rarely used tool to ensure thoughtful debate to a highly abused political weapon that paralyzes the legislative process. When Lyndon B. Johnson served as Senate Majority Leader, he had to file for cloture to end a filibuster just once in 6 years. In the 111th Congress, Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to file cloture to end a filibuster 84 times. The filibuster was used more in 2009 alone than in the 1950s and 60s combined.
To continue our economic recovery and create jobs, we can’t afford any more gridlock and political obstruction. Senator Gillibrand plans to work with her colleagues on filibuster reforms that will require senators who object to specific legislation to come to the Senate floor and explain to their colleagues and the American people why they are choosing to obstruct.
2. Earmark Transparency
To ensure greater accountability and effectiveness of the earmark process, Senator Gillibrand will work to pass bipartisan legislation that makes the federal earmark process fully transparent and easy for citizens to access.
Senator Gillibrand introduced the Earmark Transparency Act last year with Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and John McCain (R-AZ) to create an easily searchable online database of all federal earmarks and plans to work this year to pass this legislation.
The database would include the following information about each federal funding request:
- Amount of initial request made by requestor;
- Amount approved by the Committee of jurisdiction;
- Amount approved in final legislation (if approved);
- Type of organization receiving the request (public, private non-profit, or private for-profit entity);
- Project name, description and estimated completion date;
- Justification explaining how Congressionally directed spending item would benefit taxpayers;
- Description, if applicable, of all non-federal sources of funding for the Congressionally directed spending item;
- Requests and supplemental documents submitted to a committee of Congress.
The database would include information on all bills that pass either chamber beginning the day the bill is signed into law.
Senator Gillibrand was the first Member of Congress to post her own earmark requests on her website, along with her official daily meetings and her personal financial disclosure report. Senator Gillibrand’s Sunlight Report is available here.
3. Ending Anonymous Holds
Anonymous holds kept hundreds of pieces of legislation from moving forward last Congress, bringing the legislative process to a halt with no way to hold obstructionists accountable. With 67 of her colleagues, Senator Gillibrand last year wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), calling to end the practice of Senators putting anonymous holds on legislation. Senator Gillibrand is again calling on Senate leaders to ban anonymous holds for good to help ensure the Senate can move forward without political obstructionism.
4. Ending Automatic Congressional Pay Raises
From 1991 to 2009, the Senate raised its own pay 13 times, raising its annual salary by more than $70,000, according to the Congressional Research Service. Senator Gillibrand has always opposed Congressional pay raises. She has cosponsored legislation to permanently end the automatic pay raise for Members of Congress and will again work to pass this legislation in the new Congress.
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