J. Scott Applewhite / AP
Democrats’ hopes of reforming Senate rules to weaken the filibuster were dashed Thursday as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, made it clear she would not support the plan.
Sinema effectively ended his party’s hopes of weakening the 60-vote requirement for most laws as President Biden prepared to travel to Capitol Hill to sell the plan to Senate Democrats. Sinema’s position is not new, but some Democrats were hoping she could be persuaded to drop her objections in order to pass new voting rights legislation.
In a speech to the Senate Thursday, Sinema said she supported the voting reforms and specific voting rights bills under consideration, but added that she did not want to change her position on the issue. filibuster for them to be adopted.
“These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they don’t completely treat the disease itself,” Sinema said. “And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support the separate actions that sent the underlying disease in division infecting our country.”
Sinema went on to criticize lawmakers trying to consolidate power and lamented the lack of real negotiation and bipartisanship in Washington. She also argued that any attempt to undermine the filibuster, which might make it easier for Democrats to pass legislation now, would grant Republicans the same power when they regain control of the Senate in the future. Sinema said this could create wild fluctuations in public policies that would be bad for the country.
“US politics are cyclical and the allocation of power in Washington DC is regularly swapped by voters from party to party,” Sinema said. “What is legislative obstruction other than a tool that demands that new federal policy be broadly supported by senators representing a wider range of Americans, a safeguard inevitably seen as a hindrance by whoever holds a majority in the Senate, but which in effect ensures that millions of Americans represented by the minority party have a voice in the process. “
Only two Democrats sat in the Senate Chamber to listen to Sinema’s remarks. Several Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., And his Senior Deputy, Senator John Thune, RS.D., were in attendance for the speech.
McConnell later told reporters he was happy with Sinema’s remarks.
“She literally saved the Senate as an institution,” McConnell said. “It was a remarkable act of political courage.”
Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.