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What's Preventing The Democrats From Abolishing The Filibuster?



Conservative and "moderate" Democrats are the culprits. Biden isn't exactly eager to do so, but he doesn't get a vote and he doesn't have to sign a bill. The Democrats need 50 votes + either one Republican-- fat chance-- or Kamala Harris, who has previously said she backs the idea.

Yesterday, Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent noted that one of the moderate, status-quo obsessed Democrats was no longer opposing filibuster reform. Hours before the House passed H.R.1 last night, Sargent wrote that the knee-jerk GOP filibuster to legislation this existential has helped persuade Klobuchar to come out (to Ari Berman) in support of ending the filibuster if it is necessary to pass measures defending voting rights. This is what she told Berman: "I would get rid of the filibuster. I have favored filibuster reform for a long time and now especially for this critical election bill. We have a raw exercise of political power going on where people are making it harder to vote and you just can’t let that happen in a democracy because of some old rules in the Senate."


What’s critical here is that Klobuchar, who is decidedly not a member of the party’s liberal wing, bluntly described the central question as one over whether Democrats will allow themselves to be steamrolled by a Republican exercise of power.
Across the country, GOP state legislatures are using the power they have to tilt the future electoral playing field to their anti-majoritarian advantage, making it harder to vote wherever possible and even boasting that extreme gerrymanders will help them recapture the House.
Will Democrats really allow the filibuster-- itself an anti-majoritarian relic of Jim Crow-- to constrain them from using their power to defend voting rights and the majoritarian features of our democracy even as Republicans undermine them as comprehensively as they possibly can?
Such is Klobuchar’s framing. How often do you hear other Democrats discuss the issue in quite these terms?
Indeed, our discourse is so upside down that it gets discussed in precisely the opposite way. [See imbecilic quote from Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen below.] Democrats such as Manchin and Sinema constantly treat keeping the filibuster as something that will facilitate the operations of democracy.
For instance, NBC News reports that Sinema sent a letter to constituents insisting that keeping it will smooth a “bipartisan process” that will respect “the opinions of senators from the minority party” and “result in better, commonsense legislation.”
That’s nonsense. In an ideal world where civic virtue and good faith reigned, denying a partisan majority the ability to pass legislation would theoretically result in more bipartisanship, since that majority then would need a few members of the minority to get 60 votes to end filibusters.
But that’s not the world that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made. He has a long history of using the filibuster as a tool to facilitate the withholding of any and all bipartisan cooperation and to cast the Democratic president as a failed conciliator, irrespective of whether that president actually does offer concessions to GOP senators.
Whatever Republican senators’ “opinions,” the incentives tilt against them engaging in a “bipartisan process,” since refraining is better for their party overall. Ironically, without the filibuster, GOP senators might be more inclined to negotiate to place their stamp on legislation they know might pass without them.
Playing this ugly game is McConnell’s right under Senate rules, but no one is obliged to pretend not to understand how the filibuster actually functions: In reality, it gums up the functioning of government and incentivizes raw partisan power politics.
In the case of voting rights, this will be even more stark. Republicans are doing everything they can to rig democracy to their anti-majoritarian advantage wherever possible, for purely partisan purposes. Will Sinema and Manchin really prevent the Senate majority from protecting voters from these schemes in the name of bipartisanship ?

Dead set against it are the Senate Dems' two hard-core right-wingers Kyrsten Sinema (AZ), who wants to make the filibuster even worse than it already is, and Joe Manchin (WV), who has said he absolutely opposes it. Half a dozen other Senate Democrats oppose it and, along with Sinema and Manchin, should be primaried if they run again:

  • Tom Carper (DE)

  • Jacky Rosen (NV)

  • Dianne Feinstein (CA)

  • Bob Casey (PA)

  • Patrick Leahy (VT)

  • Angus King (I-ME)


The stupidest excuse to keep the filibuster was given, appropriately enough, by the stupidest Democrat in the Senate, Jacky Rosen, a pathetic Schumer recruit from Nevada-- not as dumb as Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, but D.U.M.B. "I think it’s an important tradition and tool for us to be able to really hold our ground. Even in the minority, you should still have a voice." Someone needs to explain to this moron that "a voice" is not the same as "a veto." So that's 8. You see on the left the irony of the awful endorsements some group made of reactionaries Rosen and Sinema in the name of Democrats winning back the Senate. Meanwhile there are 14 senators, mostly progressives, who have spoken out in favor of doing it. These are the senators who have made public statements in favor of ending the filibuster:

  • Bernie (I-VT)

  • Elizabeth Warren (MA)

  • Ed Markey (MA)

  • Jeff Merkley (OR)

  • Brian Schatz (HI)

  • Mazie Hirono (HI)

  • Chris Murphy (CT)

  • Alex Padilla (CA)

  • Cory Booker (NJ)

  • Sherrod Brown (OH)

  • Dick Durbin (IL)

  • Amy Klobuchar (MN)

  • Ben Ray Lujan (NM)

  • Tim Kaine (VA)

The rest of the members are either unclear or "open" to it, but unwilling to go on record supporting it for one reason or another.

©2000 by Howie Klein. Leading The Progressive Fight Online Since 2000

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