As expected during the run-up to the 2020 election, a battle is brewing over the filibuster, the longtime Senate rule requiring 60 votes to move forward on legislation.
With a one-vote majority because of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaker, there’s a renewed demand from Democrats to blow up the filibuster to move partisan legislation such as the Equality Act and the For the People Act.
President Biden, when he was a senator, affirmed the rule. Now in the Oval Office, he’s changed his mind.
The Democrats’ biggest hurdle is moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who want to maintain it.
CNN reported Wednesday that Manchin has poured cold water on the call to “gut” the filibuster.
The report said it’s “the latest sign of the high hurdles facing proponents who are eager to weaken the power of the minority party to derail the legislative agenda of the majority.”
“Manchin’s view is important because Democrats can’t muscle through any rules changes without a unified caucus given that the chamber is divided 50-50 and all Republicans are likely to oppose such changes,” CNN explained.
CNN reported Manchin said “yes” regarding whether or not he wants to maintain the 60-vote threshold.
Harris has confirmed she is with Biden on the issue, Fox News reported.
Biden said Tuesday in an interview with ABC News that “you have to eliminate the filibuster, you have to do it what it used to be when I first got to the Senate back in the old days.”
“You had to stand up and command the floor, you had to keep talking,” he said.
Harris likewise has flipped on the issue, having signed a bipartisan 2017 letter calling for continuation of the rule.
At the time, Republicans controlled the Senate, House and White House, meaning that the filibuster was the Democrats’ most powerful tool to slow the Republican agenda.
Then in 2019, while running for president, she said she was “prepared to get rid of the filibuster to pass a Green New Deal.”
The Democrats last year used the 60-vote threshold to halt action on a police reform bill from Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and several coronavirus relief packages proposed by Republicans.
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., this week warned Democrats that what goes around, comes around. If they kill the filibuster, he said, Republicans would require a vote on every action the Senate takes, which would create absolute gridlock in a 50-50 chamber.
“So let me say this very clearly for all 99 of my colleagues. Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like,” he said. “None of us have served one minute in a Senate that was completely drained of comity and consent. This is an institution that requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon, to proceed with a garden-variety floor speech.”
He continued: “I want our colleagues to imagine a world where every single task, every one of them, requires a physical quorum. Which, by the way, the vice president does not count in determining a quorum. This chaos would not open up an express lane for liberal change. … The Senate would be more like a 100-car pileup, nothing moving.”
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