Feinstein opens door to supporting filibuster reform
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on Friday night opened the door to supporting changes to the legislative filibuster, handing a win to reform advocates.
Feinstein, long viewed as wary of any changes to the legislative filibuster, noted her attempts to find bipartisan deals on areas like background checks and the Violence Against Women Act. But, she warned, if Senate Republicans “abuse the filibuster,” she would be open to changing the rules.
“Ideally the Senate can reach bipartisan agreement on those issues, as well as on a voting rights bill. But if that proves impossible and Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster by requiring cloture votes, I’m open to changing the way the Senate filibuster rules are used,” Feinstein said in a statement.
Feinstein pointed to a recent shift from President Biden, a former Senate colleague, who endorsed the “talking filibuster” this week. Feinstein said the idea was “worth discussing.”
“I don’t want to turn away from Senate traditions, but I also don’t believe one party should be able to prevent votes on important bills by abusing the filibuster,” she said.
Biden has not directly said if he supports getting rid of the 60-vote procedural threshold most legislation needs to clear. White House press secretary Jen Psaki, subsequently asked if the president supports getting rid of the 60-vote threshold, said he would “be open to hearing ideas about going to the talking filibuster.”
Senate Democrats, wary of getting ahead of Biden, noted earlier this week that he didn’t take a specific stance whether to get rid of the 60-vote threshold, the ultimate goal for reform advocates. Some Senate Democrats have floated that they could have a “talking filibuster” that would require opponents to speak on the Senate floor but also require a 60-vote procedural threshold for legislation.
Feinstein’s statement comes just days after she told reporters that she was concerned about gutting the legislative filibuster because it could allow Republicans, when they are back in the majority, to pass legislation strongly opposed by Democrats.
“I would say I’m undecided,” Feinstein said, adding that the impact on a future GOP majority “is a factor, one of the reasons why I’m hesitant.”
Feinstein, a long-time institutionalist, was viewed as a significant holdout by progressive groups and one of several Senate Democrats wary of making changes to the legislative filibuster. In addition, Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are on the record in opposition to getting rid of the filibuster.
To make changes to the filibuster, all 50 members of the Senate Democratic caucus would have to support the change.
Manchin initially expressed an openness to making the filibuster more “painful,” but has subsequently reiterated several times that he believes the 60-vote threshold needs to stay in place.
“You know where my position is. … There’s no little bit of this and a little bit — there’s no little bit here. You either protect the Senate, you protect the institution and you protect democracy or you don’t,” Manchin told reporters this week.
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