Go figure that publicly accusing someone of being a proto-segregationist traitor might not woo them to your side of an argument. As Joe Biden plans to come to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrats in their effort to kill the filibuster, two sources tell Politico’s Tara Palmieri that Kyrsten Sinema may publicly humiliate Biden as he arrives:
NEW: Before Biden arrives on the Hill for his lunch to push voting rights, Sinema is weighing going to the floor at noon to speak out against changing the rules for voting rights, per two Senate sources. She's doubling down.
— Tara Palmeri (@tarapalmeri) January 13, 2022
Burgess Everett confirms that the speech will take place — and it ain’t a concession:
Confirmed: Sinema will speak shortly. It'll be a broader speech but she'll reiterate her position on the filibuster and other issues https://t.co/CuzCdRnQsU
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) January 13, 2022
That’ll make a fine and well-deserved rebuke to the president who accused Sinema and Joe Manchin of standing with George Wallace and Jefferson Davis. Biden is holding a presser on COVID-19 as this post is getting written, but plans to make his way to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in a last-ditch effort to kill the filibuster:
President Joe Biden is expected to head to Capitol Hill on Thursday in an attempt to persuade Democratic lawmakers to back a major change to the Senate’s rules that would allow a pair of voting rights bills to move forward.
The trip amounts to him putting his money where his mouth is, after delivering an impassioned speech Tuesday in which he said there was “no option” except for senators to do away with the filibuster — a rule that requires 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 50, to advance most legislation — if the bills could not be advanced another way. …
The White House has said that in the wake of his speech in Atlanta — where Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris — Biden and Harris “will be working the phones over the next several days pushing members of the Senate to support voting rights legislation and changes to Senate rules.”
On Thursday, the White House said, Biden will meet with Senate Democrats “to discuss the urgent need to pass legislation to protect the constitutional right to vote” and “again underline that doing so requires changing the rules of the Senate to make the institution work again.”
But Biden faces an uphill battle transforming rhetoric into action. A pair of Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — have remained intransigent in their opposition to taking such a step.
“Intransigent” is an interesting word to use in this instance. Sinema and Manchin have been more consistent on this point than most of their caucus colleagues, who four-plus years ago demanded that Mitch McConnell “save the filibuster” from Donald Trump’s insistence on majoritarian rule. McConnell willingly allied with them, arguing vociferously for several months against Trump’s push. Now when they barely have control of the electoral levers of power, the same Democrats see the filibuster as an affront to democracy and its adherents on the same level as Jefferson Davis.
In anticipation that Biden’s mission will end in failure, a subtle shifting of goalposts can be seen in this Associated Press coverage from earlier this morning:
The strategy does little to resolve the central problem Democrats face — they lack Republican support to pass the elections legislation on a bipartisan basis, but also don’t have support from all 50 Democrats for changing the Senate rules to allow passage on their own. But the latest tactic could create an off-ramp from their initial approach, which was to force a vote by Monday on Senate filibuster changes as a way to pressure Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to go along.
By setting up a debate, Schumer will achieve the Democrats’ goal of shining a spotlight that spurs senators to say where they stand. The floor debate could stretch for days and carry echoes of civil rights battles a generation ago that led to some of the most famous filibusters in Senate history.
So now it’s just the debate that matters, not the vote itself. “Shining a spotlight” is suddenly the purpose of the Senate majority, not actual governance, especially a rationally calculated governance in light of the Senate’s composition. This spin will allow Chuck Schumer and Biden to declare victory in retreat, at least for the purposes of media outlets anxious to provide Biden and Schumer some narrative cover.
Sinema’s speech will make that spin more difficult. She could make it impossible if she rips Biden in the same personal terms as Biden used in that disgraceful, demagogic speech in Georgia. Stay tuned.
Update: Sinema expressed her support for the underlying election bills, but …
Sinema calls this week's "harried discussions" on Senate rules a poor substitute for a longer debate that could have taken place over the past few months
Says filibuster "ensures that millions of Americans represented by the minority party have a voice"
— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) January 13, 2022
Update: Here’s the money clip:
BREAKING: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema praises proposed voting rights bills but reiterates support for filibuster rule, saying "I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country." https://t.co/ihVuth6xKF pic.twitter.com/GVNP9wBLYe
— ABC News (@ABC) January 13, 2022
Interestingly, Sinema laid the blame for this at Harry Reid’s feet, even while refraining from naming him explicitly. She marked the 2013 nuclear option as ground zero for the Senate meltdowns that followed.
Update: You can guess how Joe Manchin feels about Sinema’s courageous stand, but you don’t have to:
MANCHIN just now on Sinema’s speech: “Very good. Excellent speech."
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) January 13, 2022
I suspect that a few others in her caucus are quietly congratulating Sinema, including her Arizona colleague Mark Kelly, who now might not have to go on the record about the filibuster. Unless Chuck Schumer is just flat-out politically suicidal.