On Monday night, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell declared that his battle to keep the Senate filibuster in place had been won.
McConnell released a statement reading:
Today, two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden’s and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation. The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001. With these assurance, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent.
I’m glad that two Senate Democrats confirmed today they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster. They agree with President Biden and me on protecting the Senate.
With this win, we can move forward with a 50-50 power-sharing agreement built on the 2001 precedent. pic.twitter.com/fHUCFxxXh8
— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) January 26, 2021
On Monday, The Washington Post reported that Arizona Democratic Sen. Krysten Sinema revealed that, like fellow Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, she would not vote to end the Senate filibuster:
Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) has been the most outspoken Democratic opponent of changing Senate rules and has sought to assemble a bipartisan cadre of centrist senators willing to hammer out deals across the aisle. But other Democrats are similarly resistant. A spokeswoman for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) said the senator is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.”
Meanwhile, other Democratic senators, including Jon Tester (Mont.), have also signaled support for the status quo while hinting that GOP stonewalling could change their minds.
The Post also notes that Biden, who has long stood by the filibuster, said in July that he would “take a look” at eliminating it, “depend[ing] on how obstreperous [Republicans] become.”
Because of the filibuster, a minimum of 60 votes is needed to advance legislation; most Democratic proposals would require at least 10 GOP senators to agree in order for them to be passed. Eliminating the legislative filibuster would enable the Democrats to pass legislation with a simple majority vote.
The way the filibuster works is this: the minority party can keep debate open on a legislative issue until the Senate votes to close the issue, but to close the vote takes 60 votes. There are limitations on the filibuster: it cannot be used for certain budget bills, federal executive branch appointees and judicial appointments, including Supreme Court nominees.
As Rachel Bovard of The Heritage Foundation explained:
Far from being simply a weapon of obstruction, the filibuster actually forces compromise. The framers designed the Senate to be a consensus-driven body. If a majority party knows they need to garner 60 votes to end debate on a bill, the necessity of working across the aisle, negotiating, and finding areas of agreement becomes imperative, rather than optional.
Without the filibuster as a tool of negotiation, the Senate becomes little more than a smaller version of the House of Representatives where legislation reflects the priorities of the majority, with little regard to concerns of the minority.
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