Six former Colorado senators were among the 70 former U.S. senators who signed an op-ed published in The Washington Post decrying the “Senate’s abdication of its legislative and oversight responsibilities” and erosion of its functionality.
“As their first priority, the Framers explicitly entrusted all legislative responsibility in Article I of the Constitution,” the letter reads. “The Senate’s abdication of its legislative and oversight responsibilities erodes the checks and balances of the separate powers that are designed to protect the liberties on which our democracy depends.”
The authors cited the now-regular use of the filibuster, the diminished responsibility of committees for writing legislation, and the powers that Congress has ceded to the executive branch over time as changes for the worse.
They added that sitting U.S. senators have shared those same concerns and have wondered “whether the reality of Senate membership is worth the considerable effort and expense of running for office.”
Many Democrats, including current U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, have blamed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., for the diminished functionality of the Senate. In December 2019, Bennet told CPR that “If you accept the rubble of our current institutions as McConnell and [President] Trump can do, the reason they can accept that rubble is that they're not actually trying to solve anything”.
However, the letter’s authors intentionally declined to point fingers at McConnell, writing, “This does not have to be viewed as a judgment on today’s Senate leadership; instead, it’s a bipartisan act of shared responsibility and accountability for how we arrived at this point.”
The senators’ preferred solution was a “bipartisan caucus” to advocate for fair opportunities for senators to engage in work in committees and on the floor of the Senate. They did not touch on more controversial proposals like the elimination of the filibuster or repeal of the requirement to have two senators per state.
Signatories from Colorado included Democratic Sens. Gary Hart, Ken Salazar, Mark Udall, and Tim Wirth, and Republican Sens. Hank Brown and Ben Nighthorse Campbell.