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Almost all Senate Democrats are open to filibuster reform

When Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff both won their second round of the Senate in Georgia on January 5, they gave Democrats full control of government in Washington for the first time since 2010. But Democrats don’t hold the Senate. only by the thinnest margin possible: a 50-vote tie that could be broken by Vice President Kamala Harris.

If President Joe Biden and the Democrats in Congress are to pass their broad agenda, they’re going to have to change the rules of Senate filibustering.

Support for reform is increasing. As of April 2, 27 Senate Democrats openly supported removing or reforming the chamber’s filibuster rules on legislation, according to a review of statements from HuffPost. Nineteen others remain open to reform or repeal of Senate filibuster rules. But there are at least three Senators – Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) And Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) – who continue to claim they don’t want to change the 60s. years of the Senate. voting threshold. (The position of Washington Democrat Maria Cantwell is currently unknown.)

They will need the 50 members of the Democratic Party caucus to change the rules.

Learn more about the Democratic Senators’ positions above.

Under current Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to end debate on a bill and overcome a filibuster. This is called a closing vote. For Democrats to defeat any filibuster, they would need 10 Republicans to defect to vote to end debate. But Republicans have already refused to vote for Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, a sign they will return to the outright opposition position they occupied during the first two years in office. President Barack Obama. They are almost certain to do the same for laws on the franchise, gun control, immigration and more. And so, Democrats may need to change Senate rules to get their agenda promulgated.

Many key senators who now support or are ready to change the filibuster rules have relaxed their earlier opposition to the filibuster change. Twenty-one in 25 Democrats who signed a bipartisan letter supporting filibuster in 2017 have since changed their minds. Those who have changed their stance point to the Republican refusal to work on the US bailout and the apparent return of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s redeployment of the total obstruction plan he used to thwart the US bailout agenda. Obama.

“I do not want to deviate from Senate traditions, but I also do not believe that a party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing filibuster,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California). supporter of filibuster, said on March 19.

“If … the minority clings on and regularly uses this power to block all initiatives of the majority (and their president), supporting the maintenance of the rule becomes increasingly difficult to justify, whatever the consequences.” long term, ”Senator Angus King (I-Maine), who signed the 2017 letter, said in a March 24 opinion piece in the Washington Post.

“The responsibility lies with Senate Minority Leader McConnell,” said Senator Jack Reed (DR.I.), another signatory of the 2017 letter in January. “He can either play a constructive role in this effort, or create a wall of partisan obstruction and further threaten the traditions of the Senate. “

My Republican colleagues are going to have to decide whether or not we want to work together, or how they want to proceed is simply to divide the country.
President Joe Biden

Like those senators, Biden changed his stance from supporting the current rules of filibuster to an openness to reform in pointed remarks at a March 25 press conference.

“My fellow Republicans are going to have to figure out whether or not we want to work together, or deciding how they want to proceed is just to divide the country,” Biden said. “I’m just going to go ahead and take these things as they come.”

McConnell’s use of filibuster will soon occur as a slew of House-passed bills pile up in the Senate.

One of the most notable bills is the For the People Act, which expands voting rights, bans gerrymandering, and reforms campaign finance, among others, and has received major legislative designations HR 1 and S. 1 by Democrats in both chambers. The bill was passed in the House on March 3 and is currently going through the Senate committee process. He is expected to receive a vote on the ground, when Republicans are expected to block him with a filibuster.

“We’ll see if our Republican friends join us. If they do not join us, our caucus will meet and decide on the appropriate action to be taken, ”Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) said as the bill was tabled in the Senate. Senate. “Failure is not an option.”

Schumer will have to convince resistance fighters like Manchin, Sinema and Leahy to drop their opposition to changing the rules of filibuster. Manchin suggested some opening to bring back the so-called systematic obstruction. But he also declared a contradictory position of not wanting to change the 60 vote threshold.

“I’m still 60… I haven’t changed,” Manchin said on March 17.

On April 7, Manchin further highlighted his opposition to changing the filibuster rules in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

“There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster,” Manchin wrote.

In a letter to a voter, Sinema affirmed his opposition to changing the filibuster rules: “I have said for a long time that I oppose the elimination of filibuster on legislation.”

Meanwhile, Leahy, the longest-serving Senate member, said in 2019 that he opposed changing the filibuster rules. “I agree with Thomas Jefferson,” he said. “[The Senate] is the refrigerating saucer where things are cooled. He hasn’t announced any job changes since and, when asked if he had changed jobs, his office offered, “No further comment at this time.”

This position of opposition can be strongly maintained or it can be contingent. In 2013, Republicans used filibuster to block many Obama’s judicial appointments, particularly to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the second-most important federal court after the Supreme Court of the United States. Harry Reid, then Senate Majority Leader, pushed for an end to the filibustering of non-Supreme Court seats. Many Democrats have declared themselves opposed to doing so for months. In other words, until they don’t.

The same may hold true for legislative filibuster as Senate Republicans begin to block passage of legislation.

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