Bondurant clashes with Senate lawyers in D.C.
4:53 pm, December 10th, 2012
Lawyers for Common Cause, including Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant, clashed with lawyers for the U.S. Senate for more than two hours this morning in a federal hearing in Washington over a suit challenging the constitutionality of the U.S. Senate filibuster, said Common Cause spokeswoman Mary Boyle.
Boyle said that U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of the District of Columbia “asked a lot of questions to both sides” and ordered lawyers with the Office of Senate Legal Counsel “to file additional information” by Thursday in response to several cases cited in Common Cause’s complaint and formal response to the Senate’s motion to dismiss the case.
Two Georgia plaintiffs in the Common Cause case, U.S. Reps. John Lewis and Hank Johnson, both Democrats, were not at the hearing or at the news conference afterward, Boyle said.
But in a statement included in Common Cause’s news release, Johnson – a Decatur attorney – called the Senate filibuster “a tool for unnecessary obstruction.”
“It undermines the Constitution’s checks and balances, and it denies the Constitution’s guarantee of equal representations to the states.”
In a news release issued shortly after the hearing ended, Common Cause said that Bondurant urged Sullivan to schedule a trial on the merits of the suit. Bondurant argued that the federal courts have an established right to review and overturn laws passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the President.
“It cannot be that a Senate rule is immune from review when a statute (passed by both Houses) signed by the President is subject to review,” Bondurant said.
The filibuster is a Senate rule approved by the U.S. Senate in 1917 that requires three-fifths vote of the Senate to close debate on any matter before the Senate body as a whole. The filibuster is not incorporated in the U.S. Constitution and, according to Bondurant, was not used by the Continental Congress to end debate, which was done by a simple majority.