On October 9th, the Senate Government Affairs Committee approved Senate bill (S.1651), as amended, which creates the U.S. Consensus Council (USCC). If this legislation passes and is signed by the President, the USCC, would primarily serve Congress in promoting consensus-based solutions to important national legislative policy issues. The USCC’s role would be to convene diverse stakeholders on a particular issue and build agreements among them that reflect “win/win”, highest common denominator solutions. The Council would be an independent, non-profit entity, on the model of the United States Institute of Peace. It could receive public and private funding. Its board of directors would be appointed by the bi-partisan Congressional leadership.
Following action by the Committee there was an unsuccessful attempt to gain expedited consideration on the Senate floor prior to the recess that began late on October 17. To gain expedited consideration required unanimous consent (UC) and at the last minute, a hold was placed on the bill by one or more Senate Republicans. This means that the bill cannot go forward unless and until that hold is lifted.
Fortunately, Congress is scheduled to re-convene for a “lame duck” session on November 12, probably for several weeks. S. 1651 has substantial bi-partisan support and those leading the effort for passage are optimistic that the bill will continue its forward momentum. There are plans during the lame-duck session to seek full Senate approval. From there, the plan is to seek approval of the Senate bill by the House of Representatives.
According to Robert J. Fersh, project director for the effort, “recent endorsement of the USCC by the Association for Conflict Resolution and others in the conflict resolution field has been a tremendous boost to the success so far. As we approach the homestretch, we need the continued support of our colleagues to keep the bill moving forward.” Fersh continues, “it is so important for Members of Congress to hear that people care about this bill and we urge our colleagues in the field to do as much as they can before November 12.”
Suggested actions include:
Writing to your own Senators and Senate Leadership, urging them to pass the bill this year. In addition to their own Senators, because of the hold it is especially important for ACR members to communicate to the Republican leadership — Senators Trent Lott (R-MS), Don Nickles (R-OK), Larry Craig (R-ID), and Rick Santorum (R-PA). To write, call or use email, contact information is available at http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index.cfm . Writing to your own Member of the House of Representatives, to the bi-partisan leadership of the House Government Reform Committee, and to the bi-partisan leadership of the House as a whole, urging them to pass the USCC legislation.
Key leaders of the House Government Reform Committee are: Dan Burton (R-IN), Chair; Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ranking Member; Steve Horn (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations; Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee. Key leaders of the House are: Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL); and Richard Gephardt (D-MO), Minority Leader. Addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for House members can be found at http://clerk.house.gov/members/index.php
Below is a sample letter that those wishing to do so can personalize or embellish based upon their own experience or relationship with the addressee:
I strongly urge you to support passage this year of S. 1651, the bill to create the United States Consensus Council (USCC). The USCC is intended to help national leaders find common ground solutions to important policy issues confronting the country. As a conflict resolution professional, I believe that when stakeholders to a conflict engage in consensus-based processes, they are able to create durable, lasting solutions.
At a time when our nation faces so many challenges that require effective collaboration and communication, the USCC represents an important new tool that could serve Congress and the President in resolving complex and contentious issues. Throughout the country there is increasing success in utilizing conflict resolution approaches to address important public policy issues. It is my belief that the U.S. Consensus Council could make a major contribution to the formation of effective and enduring public policy at the national level.
Please send copies of your letters and any responses you receive to W. Steve Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you need more information visit the U.S. Consensus Council website at www.usconsensuscouncil.org, email them at email@example.com, or call them at (202) 777-2249.