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Moderate Democratic Senators Stand in the Way of Progressive Pipe Dreams

Erik Sofranko

Posted on January 30, 2021 16:40

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There are several Democratic Senators who are not comfortable with the idea of abolishing the legislative filibuster, which is a tool that is used to block or delay legislation in the Senate.

Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has publicly stated that he is absolutely opposed to killing the filibuster. As a proponent of bipartisanship, Manchin believes the filibuster is necessary to preserving compromise in the Senate. A simple majority vote is needed to eliminate this Senate rule.

Additionally, Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona told Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that she is against eliminating the legislative filibuster and would under no circumstances reverse course. She cites President Biden’s decades of warning against such a power grab, which he continues to oppose.

Democratic Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Dianne Feinstein of California have also expressed their reluctance to support the removal of this Senate rule.

In 2013, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminated the filibuster option for federal judicial nominees after many of President Obama’s federal judge picks had faced long confirmation delays. This was followed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell eliminating the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees in 2017.

 Also in 2017, President Trump tweeted many times calling for McConnell to eliminate the legislative filibuster to make it easier for the Senate to pass his agenda priorities. McConnell refused Trump’s demand.

With the legislative filibuster in place, the current Democratic majority in the Senate will have a difficult time passing consequential legislation related to the progressive agenda, including a federal $15 minimum wage, the Green New Deal, DC statehood, health care reform, universal basic income, and tuition-free public colleges and universities.

Many senators in the progressive caucus, including Bernie Sanders, Ed Markey, and Mazie Hirono have said that the only way to deliver these policy proposals is to eliminate the filibuster for these legislative goals.

A process known as budget reconciliation allows the Senate to pass legislation by a simple majority of 51 votes instead of 60 if it is a budget-related matter. This is the tool that Senate Republicans used in 2017 to pass President Trump’s tax reform bill. This tool can be used to pass certain budgetary legislative items that are currently on the agenda, such as the new COVID-19 relief bill, if there is not a bipartisan consensus.

A new bipartisan group of senators now calling themselves the Sweet 16, which is comprised of 8 Democrats and 8 Republicans, have formed a new moderate coalition in the Senate to ensure that any proposed legislation will likely need to be agreed to by most of the senators in this new bipartisan group.

Some prominent Republican Senators in this group include Mitt Romney, Susan Collins, Pat Toomey, Ben Sasse, and Lisa Murkowski. Likewise, some prominent Democrats in the group include Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Jon Tester, John Hickenlooper, and Mark Warner.

Erik Sofranko

Posted on January 30, 2021 16:40

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