62 progressive activist groups to Schumer: Get rid of the filibuster -- or else

Or else what? Well, Chuck Schumer will have to run again in 2022, and the progressive Left clearly wants to see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez challenge him for the Senate seat. That appears to be the implicit threat behind this coordinated pressure campaign NBC reported this morning, but it might also explain why it’s going nowhere:

In a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Friday, 62 progressive groups called for him to abolish the filibuster to give Democratic priorities a chance in Congress. It’s the latest signal that the filibuster issue isn’t fading despite some vocal holdouts in the caucus.

“We urge Senate Democrats, under your leadership, to take speedy action to fix the broken Senate and make progress possible by changing the rules to end the gridlock and dysfunction,” the groups wrote in the letter, first obtained by NBC News. “The best way to restore a functioning Senate is to eliminate the filibuster as a weapon the minority can use to block an agenda that a majority of Americans have just embraced at the ballot box.”

Signatories include March For Our Lives, MoveOn Civic Action, Communications Workers of America, Voto Latino, Greenpeace, Demos, Demand Justice, Indivisible and Our Revolution. The groups represent causes ranging from gun control, climate action, a minimum wage hike, liberalizing immigration and others that are likely to be hindered by the 60-vote rule in a split Senate.

Read the whole letter here. The most amusing part of this argument is that somehow overturning two centuries of practice isn’t “radical,” and that it somehow represents a move to “restore” function to the Senate:

Even those of us who have supported the filibuster in the past now see clearly that it hasbecome something very different in recent years. … This would not be a radical step, but a pragmatic response to gridlock and obstruction to helpsenators deliver for their constituents. Senate rules have been changed many times over theyears. In 2013, the Senate took some initial steps to end the partisan blockade of PresidentObama’s nominees. 

And look how well that worked out for Democrats! Having set the precedent for mid-session rules changes by simple majority vote (rather than the previous two-century standard of two-thirds), Harry Reid set in place the very petard that hoisted his caucus when it fell into minority status in a Republican presidency. Without Reid’s “nuclear option” to set the precedent, Trump could never have muscled his appointments through on simple majorities, either in the Cabinet or on the federal bench.

As for their sudden disillusion with the filibuster, that seems to have coincided predictably with the arrival of a Democratic president. If and when a Republican president and Senate majority arrives in 2025, they’ll suddenly have revelations about the necessity of minority rights and slowing down legislation all over again.

Schumer’s refusal to expressly commit to leaving the filibuster in place demonstrates that he still doesn’t give much thought to long-term consequences, either. However, Joe Manchin’s repeated declarations of opposition to any elimination or squeeze on the legislative filibuster probably does put a dent in Schumer’s shorter-term calculations. If Schumer floated such a rule change, not only might Manchin torpedo it, Manchin might decide to take the issue out of Schumer’s hands altogether by crossing the aisle and handing control back to Mitch McConnell.

After all, it’s not as though Schumer and his allies value Manchin’s membership  in the Democratic Party. A few of the same groups that signed this letter have already begun working on finding a progressive challenger in West Virginia for Manchin’s 2024 re-election bid. That’s suicidal anyway in a state where Democrats barely show up at all; Biden didn’t win a single county in 2020, and Manchin’s the last statewide Democrat standing. It might be politically suicidal for Manchin to stay a Democrat for a whole lot longer anyway, but progressives seem determined to make it poisonous as soon as possible — which would have disastrous effects on their ability to get any of their agenda out of Congress, if Manchin flips control back to McConnell.

Schumer has to know this much, at least. Doesn’t he?