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Clovis News Journal: Q&A: Sen. Udall talks filibuster changes

The filibuster is a tool of the minority party in the Senate, by which a minority tries to prevent a bill destined for passage from getting to a vote. New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall wants to change what he considers abuses to the system.

A bill put forth by Udall and Senators. Jeff Merkley and Tom Harkin would modify the filibuster and how often the minority could use the tool.

Q: When most people think filibuster, they think of Jimmy Stewart talking until he passes out, or Strom Thurmond reading historical documents when the Civil Rights Act was debated. What has a filibuster been during the four years you’ve spent in the Senate?

A: It’s nothing like the “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” filibuster. It’s rare that a senator would go to the floor and have a principled debate about an issue and hold the floor for a long period of time. What happens now is a secret silent filibuster that clogs up the whole institution and prevents it from doing anything. We aren’t getting the proper attention we should get with the budget slowdown, the appropriations slowdown and the failure to act on bills that impact New Mexico.

Ruidoso News: Katie’s Law gets well-deserved pass, signing

The 112th Congress, which wrapped up last week, will go down as one of the, if not the least-productive in modern history. It was a place where even good legislation typically fell victim to partisan gridlock.

The fact that they were able to get Katie’s Law passed in this Congress, which President Obama signed into law Thursday, is a testament to the perseverance of Dave and Jayann Sepich of Carlsbad and many others from our state, both Republicans and Democrats, who banded together in an effort to try to keep other parents from experiencing the pain and trauma they did when NMSU graduate student Katie Sepich was murdered in Las Cruces in 2003.

Ever since, Katie’s parents have been working to get the law changed so that police collect a DNA sample of those arrested, just like they take fingerprints. Those samples are then stored in a database and can be matched against evidence taken at future crime scenes.

Navy Times: Burn-pit registry for veterans signed into law

President Obama signed legislation Thursday requiring the Veterans Affairs Department to establish a registry for troops and veterans who lived and worked near open-air burn pits used to dispose waste in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas.

Troops deployed in support of contingency operations and stationed at a location where an open burn pit was used will be eligible to register.

VA said Thursday it will announce directions for signing up when the registry becomes available.

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., one of the bill’s sponsors, became involved in promoting the registry after a constituent, Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jessey Baca, fell ill following deployment.

The Consumerist: Senators Call For An End To Payday Lending By Banks

Four of the nation’s largest banks — Wells Fargo, Fifth Third Bank, U.S. Bank and Regions Bank — are involved in high-interest, short-term loans that may not always be called “payday” loans but might as well be. Thus, a group of five U.S. senators have asked regulators to put a stop to the practice altogether.

Last week, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut sent a letter — also signed by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Chuck Schumer from New York, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Sen. Tom Udall from New Mexico — to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg and Comptroller of the Currency Thomas Curry, calling on them to use their authority to end the payday lending by federally regulated banks, which is already illegal in 14 states and can not be offered to active-duty U.S. servicemembers.

KOB: President signs Udall-sponsored Katie’s Law

President Barack Obama has signed the Katie Sepich Enhanced DNA Collection Act of 2012 into law.

The bill was named for a New Mexico State University student who was raped and murdered in 2003.

At the time, New Mexico did not collect DNA from felony arrestees. Katie’s killer was not identified until three years later, after his conviction for unrelated crimes.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall introduced the legislation along with then-U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman in 2011.

Bellingham Herald: It’s past time to overhaul the filibuster rule

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should not back down on reforming the filibuster rule, one of the primary culprits in recent Congressional gridlock.

Two senators have proposed a sensible rule change that Reid should put to a first-day vote. A reform plan crafted by senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Jeff Merkley of Oregon would require at least 10 senators to file a filibuster petition and at least one member to speak continuously on the Senate floor, a la Jimmy Stewart.

Because Republicans have abused filibusters simply to prevent debate on a bill or presidential nomination, not just to block a vote as was the norm, the Merkley-Udall proposal goes further. It would restrict filibusters to actual votes.

Any filibuster rule change has rankled Republicans, who say it would destroy bipartisan cooperation in the Senate (an oxymoron, to be sure), and also some Democrats, who fear losing majority status in the 2014 elections and may want to use the filibuster themselves.

Huffington Post: Filibuster Reform Goes to Washington

As the Senate considers filibuster reform in the coming weeks, politicians and pundits alike will be paying lip service to Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). Since Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) won over audiences around the world with his heroic filibuster to save American democracy from the tyranny of the powerful in this populist classic, the obscure Senate rule has been framed as an important feature of our political system. Yet since the rule was amended some 40 years ago, this right — in the language of the film — “to talk your head off” has been repurposed into a clerical procedure used to gag dissent and keep important debates from being heard at all. In recent years, the ersatz filibuster has mangled the intent of the founding fathers and made the Senate all but dysfunctional. Senators Udall, Merkley and Harkin have been associating their “talking filibuster” proposal with the film and its extraordinary hero. They would restore the traditional filibuster and make it so that senators would have to hold the floor and speak, just like Jeff Smith did. It is a worthy goal, and it is worth reminding ourselves of the spirit of American democracy that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was fighting to save.

The Hill: ‘Old Bulls’ for new rules

With Senators Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley, who were first elected in 2008, leading this year’s charge for Senate Rules changes, both supporters and opponents of filibuster reform depict the effort as a young man’s game. Senator Mitch McConnell dismissed the initiative as the machinations of a “cohort of short-sighted Senate sophomores.” Journalist George Packer, a reform proponent, describes Senator Carl Levin and other filibuster defenders as “Catos [who] see themselves as steady hands trying to keep the hallowed old institution from being changed out of recognition by young barbarians like Merkley, Warren, and Tom Udall.”

Although Udall and Merkley are the public faces of filibuster reform this year, and while many of the staunchest defenders of the status quo have served long tenures, long-serving members are also on the frontlines advocating reform.