I’d love to say I told you so, but this has been obvious all along. Some Senate Democrats have been awfully quiet about their positions on both the filibuster and the SB1 bill that would federalize election law in the US. Chuck Schumer’s about to force them into the open, Politico reports, and the result may wind up costing them their jobs:
Mark Kelly is not yet committed to a change in the Senate rules that would allow elections reform legislation to pass by a simple majority. A centrist who is up for reelection in November, Kelly said Monday he is still undecided just days before he may have to vote on proposals to weaken the filibuster.
“I’ve never been part of an organization where it’s really, really hard to do things. So if there’s a real proposal, I’ll take a look at it and evaluate it based on what’s in the best interests of the country,” Kelly said. He said he has yet to see what, exactly, he would vote on and that the proposals Democrats have discussed change “almost weekly.” …
For a caucus that prides itself on unity, there’s plenty of nuance in Democrats’ views.
Some, like Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) like a talking filibuster but are “not crazy” about making an exception for voting rights. Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) says reform is needed but is promoting more modest changes. She cites the near-impossible odds the party faces in getting all 50 Democrats on board for changing the filibuster unilaterally, also known as the “nuclear option.”
What about Chris Coons, who organized a “save the legislative filibuster” petition in 2017 that included Mitch McConnell as a leader? Coons told Politico that he sees SB1 as “an urgent priority,” but that he’s “seriously weighing” filibuster reform … depending on the form it takes. Shaheen’s colleague Maggie Hassan climbed off the fence recently to endorse the end of the filibuster, and she will have to run for re-election this year with that hanging over her head in New Hampshire — in the middle of a red wave.
This puts these other Senate Democrats in a tough position, far worse than anything Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema will face. Manchin can publicly stand up against Chuck Schumer and progressives because they’re despised in West Virginia. Sinema represents a constituency less red than Manchin’s but still suspicious of hard-Left Democrats, and so she can refuse to detonate a “nuclear option,” albeit notably less publicly than Manchin. She also has won more elections than Mark Kelly, who will face that same constituency in November.
If they vote with Schumer, Republicans will eat Kelly and Hassan alive this year and others later on, all for a vote that Manchin and Sinema have already insisted will go nowhere anyway. If they vote against the filibuster change, progressives will eat them alive in states where their support is critical. Even if these seats were salvageable, and that may not be the case already for Kelly and Hassan, Schumer’s move is guaranteed to lose seats for no purpose whatsoever. It’s the political equivalent of Pickett’s Charge.
Manchin’s not budging either, as Manu Raju reported last night on Twitter:
Dem pressure campaign on Manchin to use nuclear option and change rules to pass a voting bill isn't working. He told me tonight "I haven't seen" a proposal that he could back to change rules along party lines. "Maybe someone is hiding something. They haven't shown it to me."
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 10, 2022
So what’s the point of this exercise, except to conduct a bizarre purity campaign in a caucus that barely controls its chamber and is facing a hostile electorate in ten months? It’s difficult to recall any example of worse political strategy than what current Democratic leadership is pursuing. They’re not just marching straight into the guns, Schumer’s ordering them to march straight into their own guns. Stunning.