Lobbying the Senate
The exclusive powers of the Senate make it a target for pressure groups
With the constitutional power to ratify treaties, which requires two-thirds of Senate support, the Senate is a target for many groups wishing to influence America's foreign policy position. Many commentators have pointed towards the power and insider status gained by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Indeed, following AIPAC's 2013 annual convention, which was addressed by Vice-president Joe Biden, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the US-Israel Strategic Partnership Bill into the Senate, which aimed to cement relations between the two nations.
The Senate is also responsible for confirming, by a simple majority, presidential appointments to many positions in the executive branch and, more importantly, to all posts in the federal judiciary. In recent times, the process of Supreme Court nominations has become increasingly politicised. Some argue it is dominated by pressure group activity, especially since the controversial rejection of Robert Bork, President Reagan's nominee in 1987, who was subjected to a series of attacks from liberal interest groups such as the National Organization for Women (NOW) and the National Abortion Rights League.
The Senate's unlimited right to debate is also a factor in many pressure groups' decisions to target individual senators, who can exert real power with the mere threat of a filibuster In 2013 the Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act, which aimed to widen gun control in the USA, was successfully blocked by the threat of a filibuster, when a concerted lobbying effort by pro-gun groups meant it failed to reach the threshold needed to bring debate to an end on the Senate floor.