Dems wary of killing off filibuster

Democrats are wary of calls to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster if they retake the Senate in 2020. 

The filibuster is quickly becoming a divisive topic in what’s expected to a crowded Democratic presidential primary, which already includes several senators. 

A coalition of progressives is trying to make it a wedge issue, arguing it should be done away with if Democrats take the majority because it would stand in the way of a Democratic president getting signature legislation passed through Congress. 

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But several Democratic senators are cool to the idea. They worry that taking the dramatic step would effectively defang the minority party and freeze any hope of bipartisanship. 

They also think the change would turn the Senate into the House, where the majority completely rules.

“The Senate is the Senate. I served in the House, I don’t want to serve in the House again,” said Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Durbin: Trump pressuring acting AG in Cohen probe is 'no surprise' MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “There comes a time when the Senate has a responsibility to protect the minority.” 

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal Gabbard cites ‘concerns’ about ‘vagueness’ of Green New Deal MORE (D-W.Va.), asked if he would support getting rid of the legislative filibuster, also quickly shot down the idea. 

“Never,” he said. “It’s a function of our presence of the Senate basically trying to bring this country together and keep it together.” 

The fight comes as Democrats roll out myriad big idea proposals, including a single-payer health care system often referred to as “Medicare for all” and a Green New Deal that would pump money into the creation of green jobs and policies to reduce climate change. 

Those advocating for the end of the filibuster say such bills will be dead on arrival in the Senate even if they are passed by the House. 

Even if Democrats are able to win back the chamber in 2020, they are unlikely to win support from Republicans to get 60 votes on many measures.

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Ezra Levin, the co-executive director of Indivisible, said on Thursday that the “Green New Deal will never happen while the filibuster lives.” 

“Believing you can pass the Green New Deal without axing the filibuster is a little like believing climate change will go away on its own,” he added in a string of tweets

The procedural fight kicked into high gear late last week after Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Harry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night MORE (D-Mass.) said that nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster should be “on the table” if Democrats win back the Senate and the White House in the 2020 elections. 

“You keep it all on the table. Don't take anything off the table,” she told Politico

Other 2020 contenders have not gone so far. 

Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKamala Harris: Trump administration ‘targeting’ California for political purposes Gillibrand to appear on Fox News Monday night Overnight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run MORE (D-N.J.) said that he would “personally resist” any attempts to get rid of the filibuster. 

“My colleagues and I, everybody I've talked to, believe the legislative filibuster should stay there,” he said. 

That brought a brushback from progressives. The website Think Progress wrote a headline about the comments that stated: “Democratic Senator Cory Booker promises to sabotage the Democratic Party’s legislative agenda.” 

It’s not just progressives who have discussed getting rid of the filibuster. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff urges GOP colleagues to share private concerns about Trump publicly US-China trade talks draw criticism for lack of women in pictures Overnight Defense: Trump to leave 200 troops in Syria | Trump, Kim plan one-on-one meeting | Pentagon asks DHS to justify moving funds for border wall MORE has repeatedly urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Energy: Trump ends talks with California on car emissions | Dems face tough vote on Green New Deal | Climate PAC backing Inslee in possible 2020 run Poll: 33% of Kentucky voters approve of McConnell Five takeaways from McCabe’s allegations against Trump MORE (R-Ky.) to kill it off, arguing it was keeping Republicans from enacting their agenda. 

“Mitch, use the Nuclear Option and get it done! Our Country is counting on you!” Trump said in a tweet late last year, referring to a Senate rule that would be used to end the filibuster.

McConnell, a Senate traditionalist, has repeatedly said that he does not have the votes within the caucus to end the filibuster. 

The Senate has made changes to its filibuster rule in recent years. 

Democrats, led by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidHarry Reid says he won’t make 2020 endorsement until after Nevada caucus Sanders hires veteran progressive operative to manage 2020 bid Constitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency MORE (D-Nev.), nixed the 60-vote threshold for most nominations in 2013, requiring that a nomination only get a simple majority to break a filibuster. Republicans got rid of the same hurdle for Supreme Court nominations in 2017. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) — who would presumably be majority leader if Democrats took back the chamber — has expressed regret that Democrats triggered the nuclear option in 2013. 

“I argued against it at the time. I said both for Supreme Court and in Cabinet should be 60 because on such important positions there should be some degree of bipartisanship,” Schumer told CNN in 2017. 

Some Senate Democrats have pitched a rules package during previous Congresses that would have included changes to the filibuster, like getting rid of the filibuster on motions to proceed. 

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support House passes bill to end US support for Saudi war in Yemen This week: Border deal remains elusive as shutdown looms MORE (D-Conn.) said that he would be open to changes to the legislative filibuster and noted that roughly 45 Democrats backed changes pitched by Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDems face tough vote on Green New Deal GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The border deal: What made it in, what got left out MORE (D-Ore.) and Tom UdallThomas (Tom) Stewart UdallHillicon Valley: House panel takes on election security | DOJ watchdog eyes employee texts | Senate Dems urge regulators to block T-Mobile, Sprint deal | 'Romance scams' cost victims 3M in 2018 Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-N.M.) in 2013. 

“I’d take a look at it. You know, I’ve always thought that our Founding Fathers are probably rolling in their graves watching how hard we’ve made it to pass legislation. They set up a system of government that was already designed to be intentionally difficult to change, we’ve made it even harder,” he said. 

Twenty-eight Democrats currently in the Senate signed a letter to McConnell and Schumer in 2017, after Republicans got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, supporting keeping the legislative filibuster. 

Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Overnight Defense: Trump declares border emergency | .6B in military construction funds to be used for wall | Trump believes Obama would have started war with North Korea | Pentagon delivers aid for Venezuelan migrants Kaine asks Shanahan if military families would be hurt by moving .6B for border wall MORE (D-Va.) said on Thursday that while he supported getting rid of the 60-vote filibuster for executive nominees and lower court picks, “the 60 vote requirement [for legislation] serves an important purpose. … I am not yet convinced we need to make that change on legislation.”

Sen. Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsTrump got in Dem’s face over abortion at private meeting: report Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Actor Chris Evans meets with Democratic senators before State of the Union MORE (D-Del.), who helped organize the 2017 letter, said progressives who want to get rid of the filibuster are “wrong.” 

“The strong temptation of the opportunity to achieve some short-term legislative gains will be outweighed in the long term by losing the one barrier that prevents the Senate from allowing whatever passion is currently running through the House and the presidency from becoming law,” he said. 

Asked if he thought the caucus would support getting rid of the 60-vote legislative filibuster, he added: “President Trump thinks it’s a great idea to get rid of it. Perhaps progressives should think that over.”