Or would you prefer a Senate that is moved to accomplish progress for the American people? Conservatives work for special interest donors and are most of all concerned about preserving the status quo. To cut through that Ohio's progressive Senate candidate, Morgan Harper, made it perfectly clear where she stands on two important questions this morning: "I will vote to overturn the filibuster... I will vote to expand the Supreme Court."
Some candidates for the Senate have said they feel the same way she does... and others-- primarily the Schumer-backed candidates, like her primary opponent, Tim Ryan-- have either explicitly said they do not support these reforms or have avoided discussing them-- especially Court expansion.
This morning the progressive for the open seat in North Carolina, Erica Smith, told me that "We are currently seeing the cost of electing politicians for whom policy is not personal, who are not ready to do what it takes to save our Democracy, our rights, and our livelihoods. We need to meet this moment by ending the filibuster and expanding the court and the only way that'll happen is by electing progressives up and down the ballot in 2022." Her two mealy-mouthed conservative Democratic opponents feel otherwise. Jeff Jackson opposes expanding the Court and is unsure how he would vote on ending the filibuster. The other status quo candidate, Cheri Beasley, told a gathering of donors that she opposes overturning the filibuster and no thinks she would ever favor expanding the Supreme Court. She's basically refused to discuss the topic.
I tried asking all the candidates in Wisconsin their positions. Tom Nelson has told the media that he plans to "make it an issue [in the primary] and I will make it an issue in the general so that the Republican nominee, whether it’s Ron Johnson or someone else, defends it. There’s absolutely no defense."
Nelson hasn't shied away from his stands-- repeating them frequently-- and again this morning:
Nor has the other progressive in the race, Gillian Battino: "I absolutely believe that we have to get rid of the filibuster and expand the courts... Quite simply, the filibuster is preventing desperately needed solutions to the urgent issues of our time: healthcare, voter suppression, climate change solutions, racial injustice. It must be abolished. Expanding the number of Supreme Court justices is logical at this stage in our history. 13 justices for 13 circuit courts, bringing balance back to our Supreme Court." Mandela Barnes' campaign is being run by DC insiders so don't expect to ever know where he stands on anything controversial. He has stated that he favors reforming the filibuster but I can't find out where he is on court expansion at this time. Sarah Godlewski and Alex Lasry aren't as conservative as Republicans... but they're conservative enough to obscure how they feel about Court expansion. Lasry and Godlewski, like the progressives, says they favor abolishing the filibuster. Court expansion? Shhhhhh...
Pennsylvania progressive Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has said that "Getting rid of the filibuster is as close to a litmus test for our party as I can describe... I would be surprised if there’s anyone in any of these [competitive] states... that would support maintaining the filibuster." He and Malcolm Kenyatta, the other progressive in that race, have come out strongly in favor of getting rid of the filibuster. Even the most conservative Democratic candidate in the Pennsylvania race, Conor Lamb claims that he believes the filibuster has to go. Like all his fellow conservatives, though, he has ducked the court expansion question. "There's just a lot of things we're working on right now that actually have a chance of getting done now that Biden is president, and I don't think that's one of them. So I really mean it when I say I'm just not going to devote thought to it."
Although Florida status quo candidate Val Demings is apparently waiting for Schumer or EMILY's List to tell her where she stands, Alan Grayson, the progressive opposing Marco Rubio, hasn't been shy about where he stands: "I will vote to eliminate the filibuster and to expand the Supreme Court. And note how easy it is to separate the real progressive champions from everyone else; just ask the questions, and listen to the answers. Most of those mode-rats who stand for nothing normally will come right out and tell you that-- nothing." If you'd like to contribute to the campaigns of Senate candidates fighting for both expanding the Court and eliminating the filibuster, please click on the Blue America 2022 Senate thermometer above-- and do the right thing... even if it's just $5 or $10.
I want to share some of an OpEd urging Biden to do more that People for the American Way president, Ben Jealous, wrote for the Jamaica Observer a few days ago. It was specifically about voting rights but the premise could be easily applied to women's rights as well. Jealous wrote that he was proud that he worked to help election Biden president and that he's proud to have been protesting the lack of action from the White House on protecting voting right as Republican state legislatures across the country attack them. "President Biden," he wrote, "knows what the problem is. He needs to do more to solve it."
We all know how Republicans have responded to President Biden defeating former President Donald Trump-- by trying to secure future elections in Republicans' favour. In state after state, they have used Trump's false claims of voter fraud to justify new laws that make it harder for some people to vote. President Biden has correctly called this a threat to our democracy.
President Biden has called on Congress to pass the For the People Act, which would overturn many of the new restrictions and keep billionaires from buying our elections. And he has called on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would give the Justice Department the power to prevent future discriminatory voting changes from taking effect.
President Biden now needs to back up those words with stronger actions. Senate Republicans have already used filibuster rules to block the For the People Act. Now Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is getting ready to use the filibuster to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act as well.
Senators using filibusters to protect state voter suppression laws takes us back 60 years. In fact, I just saw a guy who works for a big right-wing think tank complaining that these federal voting rights Bills are “an invasion of State sovereignty”.
Early in my career I worked for a crusading black community newspaper in Mississippi-- a paper that survived multiple fire bombings. I think about that ugly history when I hear the phrase “State sovereignty” used to defend restrictions on voting.
As I told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow after the White House protest, I fear that President Biden believes he is called to be a Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) for this moment, when he is actually called to be the Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) of this moment. When President Johnson was faced with intense opposition to federal civil rights and voting rights laws, he used every bit of his persuasive power and knowledge of the Senate to overcome those obstacles.
Like President Johnson, President Biden is a master of the Senate. We have seen him build support for an infrastructure Bill. Rebuilding roads and bridges is important. But not as important as saving our democracy.
When they had the power, Senate Republicans changed filibuster rules so that Trump could pack the Supreme Court. Those rules are not sacred. They are not in the constitution. They can be changed, and they must be changed to prevent Republicans from doing Trump's bidding once more and blocking voting rights protections. Senate leaders have not yet built the support to make that change happen.
President Biden must publicly call on Senate Democrats to do what they need to do-- remove the filibuster as an obstacle to voting rights protections. That is why I stood at the White House fence with League of Women Voters CEO Virginia Kase-Solomon and all of the organisation heads, faith leaders, and young elected officials to demand that Biden do his job.