We Must End the Filibuster
With less than 18 months to go before Midterms and a liberal agenda on the line, it's apparent that Democrats must act now to abolish an outdated legislative tool that could lose them the majority.
At an event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre on Tuesday, President Biden made a point to highlight all of the hurdles his agenda faces in Congress and made a notable departure from expressing hesitancy over eliminating the filibuster. While Biden did not call out Democratic Senators Manchin and Sinema by name for their refusal to help their own party, he made it clear that there is an urgent need for a change in Washington.
President Biden told the crowd: “I hear all the folks on TV saying, ‘Why doesn’t Biden get this done?’ Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends,” he said. “But we’re not giving up.” (You can watch Biden’s full speech in the video below.)
Now, more than 100 advocacy groups are urging Senate Democrats in a formal letter to abolish the 60-vote threshold, citing the Republican blockade of a commission to investigate the Capitol riot as a rallying cry. Prominent organizations Fix Our Senate, March For Our Lives, Our Revolution, and the Sierra Club are just some of the heavy-hitters that have signed on to push for immediate action in the filibuster battle.
"In the face of Republicans' inability and unwillingness to defend our democracy, it is clearer than ever that the filibuster needs to be eliminated," reads the letter. Notably, this latest call to immediate action is dated on Thursday and directly follows Biden’s recent statements.
While Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has made it clear over the past several months that he has no intention of budging on his ongoing protective position over the legislative filibuster, recent attempts to pressure Junior Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) appear to be failing. After missing a pivotal vote last week to establish a Jan. 6th investigatory commission, Sinema has been on a two-day border visit with John Cornyn parroting Republican talking points about the “border crisis.”
Speaking to reporters alongside Cornyn in Arizona, Sinema said that she hadn't shifted her position on opposing changes to the Senate's rules, telling reporters that the filibuster "protects the democracy of our nation rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years."
Sinema shifted the focus to a need to change the behavior of Republicans rather than ending the filibuster. In the wake of the actions of the GOP over the last decade, this suggestion is almost comical. Democrats have been able to delay a filibuster stalemate thanks to a favorable ruling by the Senate Parliamentarian, but this workaround will only apply to spending legislation issues.
The need to apply pressure on Sinema is critical for Democrats at this point if there is any chance of advancing a liberal agenda that includes voting rights protections, Civil Liberties, Equal Pay, and most importantly, Democratic control of Congress in the face of impending Midterm Elections.
Last Friday, for the first time this congressional session, Republicans used the filibuster on a piece of legislation to kill a proposal to form a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 attack upon the very institution in which they sit. If Republicans are willing to use the filibuster to shamelessly block an uncontroversial, bipartisan proposal, it’s now painfully evident they will use it to stop any aspect of President Biden’s agenda at every opportunity.
Manchin and Sinema voted with Trump more than any of their sitting Democratic Senate colleagues between early 2017 and early 2021. Sinema’s record has skewed more toward Trump more than any other Democrat, which is an alarming statistic when you factor in the political lean of her constituency.
Democrats now realize that this is their last chance to mount a critical campaign to apply pressure to both Sinema and Manchin in time to pass vital election protections before the next Midterm Election. Nearly all conservatively controlled states have passed laws at the state level meant to restrict voting rights and access the ballot box.
The Brennan Center, which has been tracking these legislative efforts to restrict the vote, has found that the United States is on track to well exceed its most recent period of significant voter suppression, which occurred in 2011. Between January 1 and May 14, 2021, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws restricting voting access. With many state legislatures still in session, many more laws restricting access to the ballot box are still expected.
The need to advocate for eliminating the filibuster has never been more urgent. We all must speak out on this issue now, far enough ahead of the next election to guarantee voter protections, and I urge you to contact the offices of those Senators who refuse to budge on the filibuster issue.
By contacting their local offices, you will have a better chance at speaking live with a staffer, who will be charged with recording your call and your issue — mass calling to voice support for an issue is the strongest tool the electorate has to sway Congressional leaders —this is how we saved the Affordable Care Act three times.
Below are the phone numbers for Krysten Sinema’s office. Keep calling until you reach a live office staffer — leaving a message, sending a fax, or tweeting is not nearly as effective.
Phoenix Office: (602) 598-7327
Tucson Office: (520) 639-7080
Here is a script from Indivisible.org that you can use to politely but firmly demand that Senator Sinema change her stance on the future of the filibuster:
“Hi, my name is [NAME] and I'm a constituent of Senator Sinema's calling from [ZIPCODE]. Right now, our democracy is under attack and Arizona Republicans are leading the way. They've introduced at least 19 bills in the state legislature so far designed to make it harder for Arizonans to vote.
I’m calling you today because Senator Sinema is standing in the way of filibuster reform by not supporting the elimination of an outdated Senate rule that requires 60 votes to ensure a bill’s passage. As long as the legislative filibuster remains in place — a procedural hurdle that’s not in the Constitution and that has been used to stop Civil Rights legislation — we have no hope for ensuring passage of many of the necessary bills that make up a Democratic agenda.
While Senator Sinema continues to double down on her opposition to eliminating the filibuster, our democracy is at risk. She has a choice: stand with Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans, or stand wih Democrats to save our democracy. I'm calling today to ask her to support Arizonans by voting to elminate the filibuster.”
You can also sign up with Indivisible Arizona to call Sinema’s constituents and urge them to contact the senator to demand filibuster reform here, or you can sign up to take action with For the People here. Please consider taking one of the above actions now. If you know of any other credible groups working on this issue, please leave all of the necessary information about getting involved in the comments of this article.
Thank you for all of your continued hard work.
Amee Vanderpool writes the SHERO Newsletter and is an attorney, published author, contributor to newspapers and magazines, and analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.
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