Miss. Senator Advocates for Reforms to Senate Procedure

In a speech delivered to the Senate, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., urged Congress to advance a spending blueprint in the coming weeks to avoid the need to pass another short-term spending bill, which can encourage partisan showdowns. The Mississippi Senator also took the opportunity to support Senate procedural reforms to limit the debate time on noncontroversial executive and judicial nominees.

Excerpts of Wicker’s speech include:

“The Senate voted yesterday to reopen the government. I am glad that cooler heads and bipartisan goodwill prevailed before too much damage was done. But where do we go from here? The leadership of both Houses needs to negotiate appropriations caps for the rest of this year and all of next year. We all need to do our part to make sure this is done immediately. As a matter of fact, half of that job is practically done. Our colleagues in the House have a promise from Speaker Ryan to consider a defense appropriation bill at the spending level set by the most recent National Defense Authorization Act. That amount is $700 billion and represents an increase of $88.6 billion over last year’s enacted spending level – a welcome development. I hope our leaders will not wait until week after next to get us an agreement on domestic spending.”

“Let’s not approach the next few days as if the battle lines are again drawn. Rather than using the coming days to suit up for the next showdown, perhaps we can work to strengthen the Senate so that it does the governing that our founders envisioned, the governing that the statesmen who preceded us have protected.  Americans who do their jobs day in and day out expect the same hard work from their elected representatives in Washington.”

“[Mr. Hugh Hewitt] warns that the institution of the Senate ‘is careening toward widespread contempt, as happened to its Roman predecessor even before the emperors turned it into a fancy advisory council.’ One might be inclined to agree, given the events of the past few days. Indeed, we have reached an embarrassingly low point where a government shutdown is wrongly used as a bargaining chip for merely political gain.

“As Mr. Hewitt concludes, ‘It would be best for both parties to head off change imposed from pressure from the outside with change organically orchestrated from within by those with care for the body and its original design.’  There are plenty of experts with ideas on how to create a more efficient, more effective Senate.  Those ideas should be welcome now.”

“There is real hope that these reforms have already begun.  For example, there has been support by both Democrats and Republicans to change the procedural rules on executive and judicial nominations, shortening post-cloture debate from 30 hours to eight hours.  The Democratic-led Senate passed this rule on a temporary basis in 2013 with bipartisan support.”

“Sen. Lankford has a thoughtful proposal. He suggests that we permanently shorten post-cloture debate on executive and judicial nominations. I agree with this proposal.  The practice of confirming noncontroversial nominees is a courtesy historically given without needless delay to whoever occupies the Oval Office, Democrat and Republican alike.”

“The government shutdown this week was unfortunate, but it does not mean we have to continue the Senate’s ‘downward spiral,’ as Mr. Hewitt describes.  We now have an opportunity for reform and for reflection about how we want to shape the future of this institution.  I hope my colleagues, with the support of the majority and minority members, will seize this opportunity to enact positive change.”

Senator Roger Wicker Press Release