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Senator Lankford Discusses Washington Gridlock at Conservative Policy Summit

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today attended the annual Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit to discuss his vision to improve the way House and Senate Members hear from the American people and enact good policy.

Lankford participated in a panel discussion on “Perspectives from the House and Senate,” which looked at how each chamber of Congress works, and what they could do to improve the lives of people from all walks of life. Lankford spoke about protecting the voice of the American people, restoring balance to the branches of government, and ensuring that Senate rules increase deliberation. Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) participated in the panel, also. Other Members of Congress, such as Speaker Paul Ryan, Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) also addressed the day-long conference.

During his opening remarks, Lankford said, “That cooling saucer nature of the Senate, as George Washington announced at the earliest parts of our nation, is still there and still functioning. But the problem is, we have had a breakdown in how we actually operate day-to-day. We should make it hard to pass a law. We are a nation where the states should pass the majority of the laws, not the federal government. But we should still have more debate and deliberation in the Senate.”

In response to a question regarding gridlock in Congress, Lankford said, “People have lost their voice, and they feel like no matter who they elect in the Senate, nothing changes. That’s basically because you have this three-fifth’s rule to open up debate in the Senate. Many people believe because we’re in the majority, we can just run over the other side, but because of the basic function of the Senate and the three-fifth’s rule, you can’t.

“I am a firm protector of the filibuster, but I think the filibuster should be used for what it was originally designed for. Now, we have this motion-to-proceed fight where we can’t even debate something. There are two 60 threshold votes on every bill in the Senate. One to get on it, and one to get off of it. There is no reason to have it on the beginning. We should change the rules so that we have the 60-vote threshold only at the end, and protect the power of the minority.”

Lankford also reminded the Summit that frustrations about the slow pace of Congress is not a recent criticism. “Most of the changes in the American system is not sudden, it is a slow advance toward a greater good,” said Lankford. He read from Thomas Jefferson’s 1790 letter to Rev. Charles Clay, in which Jefferson said, “…the ground of liberty is to be gained by inches, that we must be contented to secure what we can get from time to time, and eternally press forward for what is yet to get. It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.”