As the House prepares to pass the For the People Act, it is becoming more apparent that this sweeping set of voting reforms — as well as future legislation crafted by the majority party — will die in the Senate as Republicans cling to the filibuster to exercise a minority rule.
But Republicans are getting a helping hand from two Democratic senators who refuse to acknowledge that the Senate filibuster is little more than an obstructionist tool that their GOP colleagues will use to stop progress at every turn.
Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) remain adamantly opposed to eliminating the filibuster to allow legislation to pass.
Business Insider recently noted that critics point out “there is nothing in the US Constitution demanding that a Senate majority’s legislation be stymied in perpetuity by a filibuster (and the need to get 60 votes to end debate).”
“A simple Senate majority could elect to simply do away with what is just a tradition, not a law,” the news outlet wrote.
Democrats, in control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, are eager to use their trifecta to deliver memorable legislative victories ahead of the next midterm elections, which have historically seen the ruling party suffer setbacks.
Some of it can be done the 50-plus-one way: the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on track to be passed this week includes $1,400 direct payments, a $400-a-week boost in unemployment, and billions of dollars in aid for state and local governments. But a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian means it will not include a hike in the federal minimum wage — and Republican support for $15 an hour by 2025 does not appear to be in the offing.
Left to Manchin, it would stay this way forever. He said on Monday that he will “never” consider eliminating the filibuster.
“Never!” he shouted at a journalist who asked whether setbacks to the Democratic agenda might lead him to reconsider, per a pool report filed Monday night by Bloomberg News’ Erik Wasson. “Jesus Christ, what don’t you understand about ‘never’?”
Sinema is of the same mind, Arizona Republic columnist EJ Montini noted on Tuesday.
Sinema recently released a statement saying, “I have long said that I oppose eliminating the filibuster for votes on legislation. Retaining the legislative filibuster is not meant to impede the things we want to get done. Rather, it’s meant to protect what the Senate was designed to be.
“I believe the Senate has a responsibility to put politics aside and fully consider, debate, and reach compromise on legislative issues that will affect all Americans. Therefore, I support the 60-vote threshold for all Senate actions. Debate on bills should be a bipartisan process that takes into account the views of all Americans, not just those of one political party.”
“On the other hand, what if a minority in the Senate choose not to compromise, even knowing it would negatively affect American voters?” Montini wrote.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent noted,
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.
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