Democrats have seen Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” spending bill stall out in the Senate, with no indications that it will be pulled back together enough to garner even the bare 50 votes it needs to get to the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris. As Democrats have pivoted back to “voting rights” legislation, they are faced with an even more daunting 60 vote threshold in the Senate thanks to the filibuster rule for ordinary bills.
As no Republicans support the Freedom to Vote Act or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Democrats must find a way to set aside the filibuster rule first if they hope to pass either measure. The laws would nationalize elections and codify expanded processes like mail-in voting if they were passed.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) undermined Republican arguments for preserving the filibuster when he struck a deal last week with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), allowing Democrats to bypass the rule to raise the federal debt limit.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) has become the focal point of the Democratic discussion about ending the filibuster rule, which could be done with the vote of every Senate Democrat.
This week, Sinema spokesperson John LaBombard said that she questions whether ending the filibuster would be good for the country. He warned that any changes made to voting laws now could be rescinded by Republicans later when they have a simple majority and are not constrained to make the compromises the filibuster rule demands. He also warned that the GOP could add nationwide voter-ID and restrict voting by mail.
Sinema’s office went on to say that she continues to support the filibuster to “protect the country from repeated radical reversals” in policy that would only promote uncertainty and erode confidence in the federal government. The statement added that Sinema has been a “fierce defender” of the filibuster since taking office in 2019 and warns that ending it might lead to “terrible outcomes for Democrats.”
Democrats may look back on 2021 soon and thank Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) for keeping the filibuster in place to protect the interests of the minority party in Congress.