Common Cause on 60 Minutes

Posted on December 22, 2014


Steve on 60 Minutes

Last night, 60 Minutes profiled retiring Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). A physician by training, Sen. Coburn is known by many as “Dr. No” for his relentless record of blocking debate on proposed bills that he opposes.

I joined 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl to discuss his tactics, which include (by Sen. Coburn’s own admission) placing holds on thousands of bills.

You can watch our interview here:

The Senate “hold” is an informal device, not even provided for explicitly in the Senate rules, that allows one senator the ability to grind everything to a halt and block all action on a bill or nominee. Essentially, the Senate hold is a threat to filibuster. Because the chamber works largely on “unanimous consent” – the agreement of all 100 senators  – to move noncontroversial items of business, the hold is a potent weapon. Majority leaders often honor holds rather than force senators to take the floor because there are so many other competing items of pending matters requiring the Senate’s attention.

During his time in office, Sen. Coburn used the hold with gusto – blocking scores of bills, from unemployment insurance to veterans’ healthcare bills.

I deeply respect Senator Coburn’s service to the country and admire his ability to stick to his principles. But the tactics he used to block debate on his colleagues’ bills contributed to a polarization and breakdown in Senate comity.

The Senate should work to restore its reputation as the world’s greatest deliberative body – a place of thought, debate, and democracy.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: More Democracy Reforms

Tags: The Filibuster

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