Senate

Sinema in speech at McConnell Center says 60-vote Senate threshold should be restored

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Monday said the Senate should reinstate the 60-vote threshold for all judicial and executive branch nominees.  

Sinema made the comments during a Q&A session following a speech at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) introduced the Arizona moderate at the event. 

“Not only am I committed to the 60-vote threshold, I have an incredibly unpopular view. I actually think we should restore the 60-vote threshold for the areas in which it has been eliminated already. We should restore it,” Sinema said to cheers from some attendees. 

“Not everyone likes that,” Sinema continued to laughs, “because it would make it harder for us to confirm judges and it would make it harder for us to confirm executive appointments in each administration, but I believe that if we did restore it, we would see more of that middle ground in all parts of our governance, which is what, I believe, our forefathers intended.” 

The 60-vote threshold for non-Supreme Court judicial nominations and executive branch nominees was ended when then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democrats invoked the so-called “nuclear option” in 2013. McConnell and Republicans went a step further and did so for Supreme Court nominees in 2017 during the confirmation process of Justice Neil Gorsuch. 

Sinema pointed to the volatility of the House, specifically, and the frequency with which both chambers flip control as part of why the filibuster should remain in place.

“It’s likely to change again in just a few weeks,” she said, pointing to the November elections.

“While it is frustrating as a member of the minority in the United States Senate — and equally as frustrating in the majority, because you must have 60 votes to move forward, that frustration represents solely the short-term angst of not getting what you want,” Sinema said. “We shouldn’t get everything we want in the moment because later, upon cooler reflection, you recognize that it has probably gone too far.”

Sinema’s remarks come nine months after she declined to jump on board with President Biden and Senate Democrats in a push to overturn the legislative filibuster to deal with voting rights. The Arizona Democrat also staked out a similar stance in 2019, having told Politico that she wanted to restore the Senate’s supermajority. 

While the remarks are not new, the timing is notable.

They come only three months after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, which Democrats have sought to codify into law without success. They also come amid the Democratic stretch run to keep hold of the party’s Senate majority and potentially break the current 50-50 split. 

Sinema is also staring down a likely primary challenge in 2024, potentially by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), as the progressive wing of the party has grown increasingly frustrated with her in recent years.

On top of her refusal to nix the legislative filibuster in January, Sinema declined to support the original Build Back Better proposal before Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in December that he could not back it. Sinema ended up voting for the Inflation Reduction Act in August. 

–Updated at 11:44 a.m.

Tags 60 votes Biden Filibuster Harry Reid Kyrsten Sinema Kyrsten Sinema Mitch McConnell Mitch McConnell

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