Maine's other senator, Angus King, is not a Democrat. He sports a solid "F" grade from Progressive Punch and aside from Sinema and Manchin has the lowest lifetime crucial vote score of any "Democrat," a tad worse than Delaware reactionary Tom Carper and Virginia reactionary Mark Warner. King is a multimillionaire who left the Democratic Party in 1993 to successfully run for governor as an independent. At the time, he said "The Democratic Party as an institution has become too much the party that is looking for something from government." He was re-elected and in 2012 ran for the open Olympia Snowe Senate seat, again as an independent-- and won, announcing that he would caucus with the Democrats.
This morning, the Washington Post ran an OpEd penned by King on the problem of knee-jerk GOP obstructionism and how that relates to the filibuster. He started his career in the Senate as an opponent of the filibuster but was persuaded by senior Democrats that "what goes around, comes around" and that "today’s annoying obstructionism could be tomorrow’s priceless shield against policies we wouldn’t like or, more probably, in defense of policies we do like." He still oppose eliminating it... "But."
He explained that he could be a vote for elimination because McConnell and the GOP grossly abuse the filibuster, which he writes "is sustainable only if the extraordinary power of the 60-vote threshold is used sparingly on major issues or is used in a good-faith effort to leverage concessions rather than to simply obstruct. If, however, the minority hangs together and regularly uses this power to block any and all initiatives of the majority (and their president), supporting the continuation of the rule becomes harder and harder to justify, regardless of the long-term consequences."
I should mention that I believe voting rights are a special case that we must address in light of the nakedly partisan voter-suppression legislation pending in many states. All-out opposition to reasonable voting rights protections cannot be enabled by the filibuster; if forced to choose between a Senate rule and democracy itself, I know where I will come down. As new Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) noted on the floor recently, “It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate, while refusing to protect minority rights in the society.”
As we enter this new Congress with a new president and a new Senate majority (barely), the question for me is how Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues will play their hand; if they are willing to work to find compromise and consensus on important initiatives (infrastructure, voting rights or immigration reform, for example), the importance of getting rid of the filibuster diminishes. If, on the other hand, they just say no, the necessity-- and likelihood-- of filibuster reform would only increase. That is to say, in large measure the outcome is in their hands.
Over to you, Mitch.
The Business Insider accepted the challenge on McConnell's behalf, noting the McConnell will bring the whole institution down rather than accept majority rule, threatening "a sort of nuclear winter." Will his scorched earth threats work? Alayna Treene, reporting for Axios last night that Republican staffers say McConnell isn't bluffing and that he'll make working in the Senate a living hell for the Democrats.
Conservative Democrats are the impediment for those who want to eliminate or reform the filibuster-- and that doesn't just include Manchin, Sinema, Carper, Feinstein and other senators but a conservative ex-senator, Joe Biden (who was the Manchin of his day). Manchin, it should be noted, is getting pressure from right-wingers in his state to hold the line against voting rights reform. The other 49 Democrats in the Senate-- including Sinema and King-- are co-sponsors of the legislation.
This morning, Axios reported that Biden may be moving towards reform... although I'll believe it when I see it. Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei reported "Biden recently held an undisclosed East Room session with historians that included discussion of how big is too big-- and how fast is too fast-- to jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes to America. The historians’ views were very much in sync with his own: It is time to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected. If that means chucking the filibuster and bipartisanship, so be it... People close to Biden tell us he’s feeling bullish on what he can accomplish, and is fully prepared to support the dashing of the Senate’s filibuster rule to allow Democrats to pass voting rights and other trophy legislation for his party. He loves the growing narrative that he’s bolder and bigger-thinking than President Obama."
The White House spin is that Biden isn't afraid of McConnell's caterwauling and his threats. He is insisting on accomplishing legacy-creating programs for rural broadband expansion, which would be transformative for those communities... making the child tax credit that was just passed on a temporary basis, permanent and landmark legislation on climate, guns, and voting rights. All that means filibuster reform or a deal with McConnell to keep the filibuster if he uses it sparingly, in the ways Angus King suggested.