Gillibrand plans filibuster reform

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Newly-elected U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand plans a major filibuster reform, calling for an end to what she named “the same partisan fighting that wastes taxpayer time.”

After winning the New York senate seat for a new two-year term and being sworn in on Wednesday, January 5, Gillibrand outlined her plans to promote more transparent government and illuminate earmark requests made by U.S. senators.

“Washington is broken,” said Gillibrand.

Former governor David A. Paterson appointed Gillibrand two years ago to fill the senate seat vacated by Hillary Rodham Clinton, who left to fulfill her current position as Secretary of State.

Currently, senators can activate a filibuster without remaining on the senate floor. Gillibrand sought to amend that rule by requiring senators to state their reasons for obstructing the legislative process and force them to physically remain on the senate floor.

To further transparency, the senator noted that she introduced the Earmark Transparency Act that would create an online database detailing senators’ requests for earmarks, how much projects will cost, how taxpayers would benefit and the organizations receiving the federal funds.

Gillibrand also said she would seek to end anonymous holds from senators that stymie legislation.

Additionally, the senator said she will seek to end automatic congressional pay raises. From 1991 to 2009, the Senate raised its annual salary by $70,000, according to the Congressional Research Service. Currently, most Senators receive $174,000 yearly.

Last year, the senator participated in establishing a tax credit for businesses that hired veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The credit expired at the end of 2010, but Gillibrand is hoping to make them permanent.

A report from Gillibrand’s office, based on census data and statistics from the Department of Labor, determined that 20 percent of these veterans under 30 in New York State were unemployed. In Queens, 525 of 2,678 veterans found themselves without work, the report disclosed.

“It’s time now to get serious about fixing our economy for the long term and getting New Yorkers back to work…” said the senator. “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.”