Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Problem with the Senate

There are 435 Representatives in the House of Representatives. Each represents a district rather than a whole state as do Senators. Representatives, if not retiring, must run for reelection every two years. When elected, Senators serve six-year terms. So some of the dynamics and pressures that Senators react to are different than their House colleagues. They have more time to think about things without worry about fund raising non-stop. The Senate is called the "deliberative body". In the abstract, they have more time to ponder. However, in reality they must absorb and deal with everything the 435 Representatives cover. There are only 100 Senators, about 1/4 the person power the House has. That creates three problems for the likes of us.

First, Senators focus on what they think it is important to them and only WHEN they think it is important. Second, staff guard Senators' time as if it were the gold in Fort Knox. So you only get to a Senator if the Senator wants to see you. Third, staff have tremendous power because they influence what a Senators sees and does. The net effect of these parameters is that any issue, any constituency, is lucky if it has one champion for its cause. Senators as a practical matter divide things up. They just don't have the time to be well-versed and champions of too many causes or experts on too many issues.

So here we are with little time left. Senator Harkin is our champion and he's retiring. If we want a vote on the CRPD, he's the one expected to convince Majority Leader Reid to schedule a floor vote without unrealistic conditions (i.e., a guarantee of 67 votes if a floor vote were scheduled). That's a heavy load. But, other Senators think it's Senator Harkin's job. They have their own priorities.

Well, at this point I think the only way Senator Reid will schedule a floor vote without conditions would be if tons of Senators, who support ratification of the CRPD, ask Reid for a floor vote. Making that happen is EVERY Senator's business, not just Harkin's. They all have a vested interest in disability rights, the U.S. standing and credibility in international circles, and what a major, diverse, constituency block has been advocating for, for a long time.

So, over the next 10 days ask every Senator to talk to Reid. If you do we may be able to do what needs to be done -- join the 150 nations that have ratified the CRPD.

Thank you.
Common Grounder

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