Harsh reality for progressives: Manchin and Sinema aren't the only Democrats opposed to ending the filibuster

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

Two weeks ago I wrote about the fact that Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema are not the only Democrats opposed to getting rid of the filibuster. Today, NBC News has an article which reaches the same conclusion. The subhead is “The worst-kept secret in Washington is that those two moderate senators aren’t alone in opposing nuking the 60-vote threshold.”

It isn’t just Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who oppose rewriting the rules of the Senate. The two moderates have been the most vocal, but it’s the worst-kept secret in Washington that they are not alone…

It’s a harsh reality for progressives — both inside the Senate and outside — who had hoped their party might be provoked into nuking the filibuster and approving legislation with a simple majority.

Other Democrats who’ve expressed skepticism of eliminating the filibuster include Senators Mark Kelly and Maggie Hassan, both of who have said they would consider changing the rules but not eliminating the filibuster entirely. Sen. Hickenlooper is also against ending the filibuster but says he is having “frequent conversations” about it.

Then there’s the old guard. Senators Feinstein and Leahy haven’t said anything one way or the other but are presumed to be somewhat hesitant simply because they haven’t endorsed calls to get rid of the filibuster. So while Sinema and Manchin take all the heat, there’s a much deeper problem for progressives hoping to get rid of the filibuster. But the left’s hope is that if Sinema and Manchin change their tune everyone else will fall in line:

“There are clearly a number of senators who are reluctant to change the rules but who have also made it clear in recent months that they are frustrated with the status quo and won’t accept inaction forever,” said former Democratic leadership aide Eli Zupnick, now a spokesman for Fix Our Senate, a coalition of dozens of liberal advocacy groups.

“So we are very hopeful that once the caucus makes a decision and has Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema on board, that the rest of the caucus will be on board and make the changes necessary to make the Senate work,” he said.

Maybe Democrats will manage to force everyone in line for changing the filibuster rules but I don’t think they aren’t going to be able to eliminate it. In practice that might mean changing the threshold needed to overcome a filibuster to 55 votes rather than 60. But with a 50-50 Senate that still leaves Democrats needing to win over five Republicans in order to pass legislation. That’s an easier lift than winning over ten but can they even get five?

Democrats are probably assuming they could bring over Senators Murkowski and Collins, often the Democrats most likely to go against their own party. Maybe they assume they can get Mitt Romney as well. That’s three votes. But after that it gets tougher. In particular, who is going to be willing to be the critical final vote to side with Democrats? Maybe the other three Senators who voted Trump’s impeachment was constitutional? That would leave Senators Toomey, Sasse and Cassidy. Toomey is not up for re-election next year so he’ll be feel free of any concern that voting with Democrats would come back to haunt him.

All of that to say it’s not impossible Democrats could defeat a filibuster if they had a 55-vote threshold but it’s not a given either. And obviously the situation changes dramatically if Republicans take the House or the Senate (or both) in 2022. At that point, the new filibuster rules could wind up helping Republicans.

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Jazz Shaw 7:31 PM on October 02, 2022