Pressure from progressive Democrats is ramping up to eliminate the filibuster, allowing legislation to pass with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes usually required – and it’s putting the party's moderates in the hot seat.
The push in the Senate is focusing on voting rights legislation, H.R. 1, which already has passed the House, and H.R. 4 – a pair of bills that wouldn’t pass if the filibuster applies to them, Politico reported.
A filibuster, according to the U.S. Senate website, is "any attempt to block or delay Senate action on a bill or other matter by debating it at length, by offering numerous procedural motions, or by any other delaying or obstructive actions."
But it’s state-level efforts aimed at stricter voting regulations – more than 250 are under consideration around the nation, Politico reported – that has Democrats worried.
"We're headed for a showdown between the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the filibuster – a relic of Jim Crow," Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, told Politico.
But Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., has warned the progressive Democrats’ push will have to win over the party’s moderates such as Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.
“I’m not going to say that you must get rid of the filibuster [entirely],” Clyburn told the Guardian.
“I would say you would do well to develop a Manchin-Sinema rule on getting around the filibuster as it relates to race and civil rights.”
So far, Sinema is not convinced.
"Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done," she said in a statement, the New York Times reported Monday. "Rather, it's meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be: a place where senators come together, find compromise, and get things done for our country."
For his part, Manchin in January declared his opposition to ending the Senate filibuster.
"I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It's not who I am," he told reporters.
The reluctance hasn’t stopped the pressure from prominent progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., or Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
In an interview Monday on MSNBC, Warren called for the end of the filibuster, declaring, "We're in Washington to fulfill our promises to the American people, to make this government work for them, not to give [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell a veto. So stay tuned."
"The Senate would be like a 100-car pileup. Nothing moving," McConnell said Tuesday, summing up his plans as minority leader in a post-filibuster Senate. In the majority, he said, "the pendulum would swing both ways. And it would swing hard," adding that he would take "zero input" from Democrats, Forbes reported.
And in a speech on the Senate floor the same day, Durbin argued filibusters have "become the death grip of democracy." A clip of the speech was posted by The Hill.
"The truth is, as filibusters and threatened filibusters have increased in recent decades, real debate and bipartisan cooperation have plummeted," Durbin said. "Today’s filibuster is often used to prevent the Senate from even starting to debate important ideas. It’s not the guarantor of democracy. It has become the death grip of democracy."
"The filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy," he added. "The filibuster is still being misused by some senators to block legislation urgently needed and supported by a strong majority of the American people.”
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