Senate’s Newest Member Says It Didn’t Take Long To Figure Out That The Filibuster Is Broken

Senator William “Mo” Cowan (D-MA), the most junior member of the U.S. Senate, has only been in office for about three-and-a-half months, but has already witnessed minority obstruction of on background check legislation, a measure to mitigate budget sequestration, and nominations for Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Labor, CIA director, EPA administrator, and federal judges. In an exclusive interview Wednesday, Cowan told ThinkProgress that the Senate’s requirement for a three-fifths super-majority needs to be eliminated.

Noting that he was stunned to learn, on his arrival in the Senate, of the “60 vote majority” needed to do business in 100-member Senate, Cowan said the rules need to be fixed:

COWAN: My view on it is this: I appreciate and respect the rules and the negotiations that led to that, but it’s currently getting in the way of too much of what we’re trying to get done — and need to get done. I think that when they’re important issues, be it nominations or legislation… that we need to have a chance to have votes, get to the issues, have real debate, and make decisions. I respect the role of the minority, I don’t believe in the majority rolling over the minority, but I don’t believe that’s what you get with a 50-vote threshold.

Noting that he does not believe there is any discriminatory intent, Cowan added that the effect of Senate Republican obstruction could be preventing diversity in government — such as stalled Labor Secretary-nominee Tom Perez. He added that the 60-vote threshold is “keeping the Senate from functioning effectively and efficiently in the work the American people need [it] to do.

Listen to the audio:

Appointed to the Senate by Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) to temporarily fill the vacant seat of Secretary of State John Kerry, Cowan brings a unique perspective: he has never run for the office and is not a candidate for election. On June 25, Bay State voters will elect a new Senator to fill the remaining 18 months of Kerry’s term. Kerry had been hesitant about cloture reform.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is reportedly considering a move prevent a minority of Senators from blocking confirmation of presidential appointees.