New Representatives seek to trump old rules
“Junior Democrats in Senate seek to change the way chamber does business
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 15, 2010; 12:34 AM
Senate Democrats are expected to elect the same party veterans as their leaders when they return to work this week, but a new class of junior lawmakers is exerting its influence by challenging the chamber's sacred traditions and the partisan, top-down governing style that has marked the past two years.
The young Democrats, many of whom will be on the ballot in 2012, reject the view that the Senate must move at a glacial pace, that only its most senior members get to determine the policy agenda, and that bipartisanship has become the purview of the naive and nostalgic.
"In the last election, voters said, 'Please work together.' I think they're going to move next to profanities," said Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.), a member of the Class of 2008.
Upstarts such as Udall, his cousin Tom Udall (N.M.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Warner (Va.) are expected to wage a fresh campaign to change Senate operating procedures and give first-term lawmakers a greater say over Democratic strategy and how the party communicates with voters.
To amplify the voice of Democratic freshmen, Senate leaders are considering elevating at least one newcomer to senior ranks. Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) asked Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.), who survived a bruising 2010 challenge, to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2012 campaign cycle. That would have given Bennet a seat at leadership meetings - along with responsibility for a potentially brutal election cycle, with 23 incumbent Democrats on the ballot, compared with 10 Republicans. But Bennet, who has three young children, turned down the job.
A top goal for '06 and '08 Democrats is to change Senate rules that allow a single member of the minority party to prevent legislation from advancing. They want the Senate to take a more entrepreneurial approach to crafting bills, rather than falling back on the same veteran chairmen and their pet policy prescriptions. And they are unwilling to write off Republicans, viewing the opposition as the linchpin to advancing Democratic goals.
"The people of this country want more bipartisanship. They want the government to run better. They want us to help the private sector create jobs. That was the message out of the election, and we'd better heed it," said Klobuchar, a member of the Class of 2006.”