Politics Democrats hit crucial stretch as filibuster fight looms
Americans split on filibuster reform: survey
Americans are split on whether to keep or eliminate the Senate filibuster with the remainder expressing no opinion on the legislative tactic meant to prevent a measure from being brought to a vote, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Thursday. Monmouth's poll found that 34 percent of Americans approve of the filibuster, while 34 percent disapproved and 33 percent had no opinion on the matter.President Biden has signaled that he is open to making changes to the legislative filibuster if it continues to be a roadblock in passing key agenda items in an evenly-split chamber.But that proposal faces opposition from moderate Democratic Sens.
Democrats are hitting a crucial stretch as much of President Biden's agenda remains stuck in congressional limbo.
Democrats have touted their progress under Biden's first 100 days, where they passed a sweeping $1.9 trillion coronavirus bill, filled out the administration and inched the country back toward normalcy after a yearlong pandemic.
But it's the next 100 days that they view as key for big priorities that will test the filibuster, and what if anything can get GOP support, as Democrats try to juggle trying to satisfy a base with a long wish list with razor-thin margins heading into 2022.
Democrats' threat to blow up Congress
No one knows what would replace it, but American government would never be the same.Cloaked in claims of “increasing democracy,” who could object? But dig a little deeper, and one finds that in their attacks on the filibuster, the Democrats are, in truth, pulling upon a thread that, if tugged too tightly, could unravel the entire Senate, and therefore the balance of the deliberately constructed system of government.
"I'm trying, in this month and next month, to do two things. No. 1, put some bipartisan things on the floor that show the Republicans but my colleagues as well that we mean we're serious that we want to do bipartisanship when we can," Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said during a recent interview with "The Ezra Klein Show."
"But second, we're also going to put on the floor some of the things that don't have bipartisan support," Schumer added.
And his biggest priorities - the S.1 For the People Act and Biden's infrastructure plan - will be early tests of both the chances of crafting bipartisan deals and the Democratic unity they will need if that falls short.
The Senate will start work on the first, an expansive bill to overhaul federal elections, next week. The Senate Rules Committee is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday, a first step to getting a vote on the floor by August.
Manchin, Sinema filibuster support scores political points back home, GOP poll shows
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema's (Ariz.) opposition to filibuster reform is scoring them points among voters in their states, according to conservative polling obtained by The Hill. A pair of polls conducted for One Nation, a dark money group aligned with Senate GOP leadership, found that both Manchin and Sinema's willingness to brush aside progressive calls to either reform the filibuster or do away with it altogether has translated into support back home, including from some Republicans.
The House passed the bill earlier this year along party lines. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), the chairwoman of the Rules Committee, is spearheading the effort in the Senate and has made changes to the legislation including giving state and local governments more leeway on the bill's mandates, as well as changing timelines for some of the bill's provisions.
But Republicans are across-the-board opposed to the bill, equating it with a federal "takeover" of elections, and the changes are unlikely to win over their support.
Supporters of changing the Senate's rules are keeping a close eye on Tuesday's committee vote, arguing that the election legislation is a key test for the filibuster, which mandates a 60-vote supermajority to pass most legislation.
Fix Our Senate, an outside group pushing for rules changes, predicted that the fight over the filibuster "is about to return with ferocity - and the battle lines are being drawn."
Avoiding White Backlash Is a Racial-Justice Issue
Democrats can’t make major legislative progress on racial equality without winning more Senate seats. To do that, they must win more white votes.Historically, Republicans have taken pains to emphasize this fact, while Democrats have attempted to downplay it. The logic of these tactics was straightforward: The U.S. electorate is both overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly non-rich.
"In the coming weeks the Democrats' number one bill and top priority will face off against Sen. McConnell's focus on defeating it - and we all know that the filibuster will be the weapon he uses to win this fight with fewer votes, unless Democrats eliminate it," they added.
And while Schumer hasn't endorsed changing the Senate's rules he's hinted that he views the election reform bill as a crucial moment in the filibuster fight.
"The process that I outlined for S.1 is a process that, I think, could very well cause the Senate to evolve," he said.
But it's unclear it could get even 50 votes, the number needed to pass even if Democrats did nix the filibuster. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has vowed to oppose the House-passed bill, instead signaling that he wants to focus on voting rights as he talks with a group including Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.).
"The vote should be accessible. It should be secure and it should be fair and that's the responsibility we have," Manchin told "Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval." "The John Lewis Voting Rights Act. It's something we used to ratify bipartisan, no problem at all... I think we should ratify it for all 50 states."
Kyrsten Sinema could be the 50th vote for — or against — Biden's ambitious agenda. So what does she want?
Last week, President Biden came before Congress to kick-start the next phase of his presidency, calling on lawmakers to pass $4.1 trillion worth of legislation meant to modernize America’s infrastructure, combat climate change, expand education and shore up the safety net for working families — “a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal,” in the words of the New York Times. And as if that weren’t enough, Biden promised sweeping bills on immigration, guns, policing and voting rights too.
It's a similar dynamic that could snag several of Democrats' priorities, where ideas like D.C. statehood or raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour don't unite the caucus. Democrats are also divided over even getting rid of the filibuster, several senators wary of changing the rules and Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on the record opposed.
Democrats are also ramping up their behind-the-scenes work on Biden's sweeping $4 trillion spending plan. Democrats only need 50 votes to pass it under reconciliation - a budget process that allows them to avoid the filibuster - but aren't yet in agreement about the scope or strategy for passing the plan.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is planning to mark up the next budget resolution this month, which, once it passes the Senate, will greenlight Democrats passing another bill under reconciliation.
But there are big divisions among Democrats about what should be included in that bill, even though Schumer and Biden need total unity.
A group of centrist-minded Democrats want to break Biden's plan up and pass what can get 60 votes in one package and the rest through reconciliation. That push comes as Biden is continuing to negotiate with Republicans including inviting Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) to the White House this week.
Election Integrity Group Urges Manchin, Sinema to Preserve Filibuster in New Ad Campaign
"The single biggest obstacle standing in the way of a Washington takeover of state electionsis the filibuster,' Ken Cuccinelli said.The six-figure digital ad campaign is directed at Senators Jon Tester of Montana, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All three senators have expressed opposition to abandoning the filibuster, although progressive Democrats have called for its removal.
Capito told MSNBC that the divide between Biden and congressional Republicans on an infrastructure package is "not nearly as big as what you might think," adding that the $568 billion proposal that she unveiled with 10 Republicans is not their "final offer."
But a growing number of Democrats believe they'll have to go it alone to pass most, if not all, of Biden's plan amid divisions with Republicans about both the top-line and how to pay for an infrastructure package.
Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) predicted that a smaller bipartisan bill would be Democrats "Plan B" if they couldn't lock down the 50 votes they need to pass a sweeping package on their own.
And Democrats, meanwhile, are pointing to McConnell's comments this week that "100 percent of my focus is on stopping this new administration," as a sign that the party should stop trying to waste time winning over GOP support.
"Handing the keys to the Biden agenda to McConnell is like a chicken handing a knife to a butcher. Filibuster must go," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) tweeted in response to McConnell's comments.
Even as Democrats are engaged in the two high-profile fights, they are also holding bipartisan talks on a myriad of topics including a massive China bill, immigration reform and background checks.
The Senate Commerce Committee will vote on a China competitiveness bill on Wednesday after delaying last month when senators filed roughly 200 amendments to the legislation. The legislation is a priority for Schumer and Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), potentially giving Democrats another pathway to bipartisanship as the rules change fight looms in the background.
Democrats haven't placed hard cut off points on their background checks or immigration talks, but a bipartisan group negotiating behind-the-scenes on police reform have pointed to May 25, the one year anniversary of George Floyd's murder, as an informal deadline for reaching a long-sought agreement.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), who is leading the talks with Republicans, said that he's "hopeful" they'll be able to get a deal after police reform stalled last year in the immediate wake of Floyd's murder, with progress on some of the thorniest issues including no-knock warrants, the use of chokeholds and qualified immunity, a legal shield for police officers.
"So we have literally been able to bring these two bills very close together," Scott said. "I think my party, significant numbers in my party have already said to me, we will go where you go on this issue as long as I can explain my position."
Manchin, Kelly, Sinema pressured to fight court packing, keep filibuster .
Three key Democratic senators, under the gun in Washington to fall in line with liberals pushing to end the filibuster and pack the U.S. Supreme Court, are facing pressure back home to push back against the wishes of Democratic leader Sen. Chuck Schumer. © Carolyn Kaster/AP Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., right, speaks to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. in 2017, is seen as the lead hurdle to court packing and ending the filibuster. © Provided by Washington Examiner Senate Demcratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., walking together in 2019.