Even With Biden's Blessing, Destroying the Filibuster Is Not a Done Deal

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Have you heard? “Democracy” as we have come to know and love it is dying. In fact, it’s hanging by a thread. Poor democracy may not last the winter unless brave men, women, and people of various sundry genders step forward to save it.


The best way to do that, if you ask Democratic Party senators, is to pass election reforms and voting rights reforms. That way, the lovers of democracy — i.e., the Democratic Party — can maintain their monopoly on power and rule as a one-party state.

How that “saves” democracy is a mystery, but it makes for a compelling, dramatic narrative, doesn’t it?

Joe Biden has begun to listen to that little voice in his head that tells him his legacy will be tarnished unless he does something really, really, really big. He’s already passed a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package, but his even bigger social spending bill is hung up in the Senate. And it may never pass even without the filibuster in play.

So Biden is turning his attention to other issues that would have a huge impact on the nation. Of immediate concern to him is the “voting rights” legislation that would codify most of the “temporary” changes to state election laws on issues such as mail-in ballots, absentee voting, extended voting hours, and, most importantly, no voter identification required.

In truth, their legislation has little to do with “voting rights.” Those rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and by every state. But claiming the mantle of “voting rights” leaves the impression that if it doesn’t pass, democracy will be destroyed.


How democracy is destroyed if some states want to close early voting at 7 p.m. and other states want to close it at 9 p.m. is never explained. But since the president says democracy is “at risk,” we gotta believe it, right?

Fortunately for America, not even all Democrats are on board any filibuster “reform” that would be necessary to pass the legislation. So despite Biden’s support for a filibuster “carve-out” — a one-time exception to pass voting rights reform — some Democratic senators from red states are extremely wary.


Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) are the source of most liberals’ frustrations these days, with both publicly rebuffing changes to the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. But it’s not like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer starts a pivotal week — focused on changes to the very fabric of the Senate — with 48 iron-clad votes for a particular filibuster reform.

Kelly is one of a handful of Democrats still weighing what to do about the party’s drive to allow sweeping federal elections legislation to evade the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. And the range of views and Democratic hesitance reflect the gravity of the debate.

Already, Republicans are threatening to gum up the Senate if Democrats change the procedures of the institution. But nonetheless, longtime defenders of the filibuster may have to make some tough choices, particularly as Biden’s economic agenda is stalled in Congress and Democrats reckon with sky-high promises they made after taking back the majority last year.


Mark Kelly of Arizona knows that if he walks the plank on filibuster reform, he’s going to end up getting wet. The same goes for Montana’s Jon Tester, who would support a “talking filibuster” — which would take us back to the days when the Senate floor couldn’t be relinquished unless the member stopped talking, but would draw enthusiastic opposition from a Republican.

And New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen is also resisting calls for even a piecemeal reform of the filibuster. So Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is still not to “yes” on any vote to end or reform the filibuster. Schumer’s problem is that there are Democrats who believe the filibuster can be a pretty good weapon to have if you’re in the minority.

Something that is more than likely to happen after the next election.



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