Progressives want to tighten screws beyond Manchin and Sinema

Progressives say pressure on Democratic centrists over ending the filibuster needs to move beyond Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinSchumer: 'Goal' is to pass Biden spending bill before Christmas The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to update Americans on omicron; Congress back This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaSchumer: 'Goal' is to pass Biden spending bill before Christmas No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills MORE (D-Ariz.).

Manchin and Sinema have earned headlines — and barbs from the grassroots — by putting brakes on filibuster reform and, in Manchin’s case, by opposing sweeping voting rights legislation.

But some on the left see the pair of liberal antagonists as giving cover to other moderates who are in the way, but who have not yet come to the surface with all the attention on the two most visible holdouts.


“It seems like there’s definitely a handful of senators who are hiding behind Joe Manchin’s skirts right now,” said Sawyer Hackett, executive director of People First Future, a political action committee started by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro. “We can’t afford to just sit back and not turn up the pressure on them.”

Potential targets to tighten the screws aren’t hard to spot.

One could be Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive groups urge Feinstein to back filibuster carve out for voting rights or resign Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Five faces from the media who became political candidates MORE (D-Calif.), who irritated progressives by hugging Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks This Thanksgiving, skip the political food fights and talk UFOs instead Biden move to tap oil reserves draws GOP pushback MORE (R-S.C.) last year during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettSupreme Court to hear landmark abortion case this week Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Progressive or moderate, Senate Democrats must move Biden's agenda forward MORE, former President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE’s pick to succeed liberal hero Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSupreme Court to hear landmark abortion case this week Roe redux: Is 'viability' still viable as a constitutional doctrine? Yankee Doodling the media: How 'Let's Go Brandon' became a rallying cry against news bias MORE.

Feinstein was persuaded to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee after the election. She’s now seen as one of several Democrats who are opposed to significantly altering the filibuster, which progressives fear with all Republicans in a 50-50 Senate will be used to block meaningful legislation during President BidenJoe BidenDearborn office of Rep. Debbie Dingell vandalized Pfizer to apply for COVID-19 booster approval for 16- and 17-year-olds: report Coronavirus variant raises fresh concerns for economy MORE’s first term.

On Thursday, Feinstein befuddled and angered activists by saying she did not believe U.S. democracy was at risk, an out-of-sync statement in a party largely horrified by what it saw as the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol and continued mistruths about the election have taken hold on the right.


“If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it. But I don't see it being in jeopardy right now,” Feinstein told Forbes.

The remarks were widely seen as more evidence that the 87-year-old senator is out of touch with fellow Democrats.

“I’m not surprised that she doesn’t think that democracy is at risk,” said Joe Sanberg, an entrepreneur and progressive activist who considered a 2018 Senate challenge against Feinstein. “Beyond the elite gates of her community is a California where we have the highest rates of poverty, where voting rights are being suppressed in the most severe ways,” he said.

“It’s completely absurd,” added Hackett, who mentioned the Capitol riot. “If she’s not able to recognize that as a threat, I’m not sure that she should be in a position of trust defending our democracy.”

Earlier this year, Manchin got a lot of attention for his opposition to including a $15 per hour federal minimum wage in the COVID-19 relief bill. Sinema also rejected the wage hike.


But what some Democrats might have missed is that eight Democrats in total voted against an amendment from Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo This week: Congress starts year-end legislative sprint Restless progressives eye 2024 MORE (I-Vt.) to ignore a Senate parliamentarian’s ruling that the wage increase couldn’t be included in the budget reconciliation package.

In addition to Manchin and Sinema, the $15 figure was opposed by Democratic Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanConstant threats to government funding fail the American public Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Sununu sidesteps question on running for president in 2024 MORE (N.H.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenBiden administration resists tougher Russia sanctions in Congress GOP holds on Biden nominees set back gains for women in top positions Sununu setback leaves GOP scrambling in New Hampshire MORE (N.H.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsSenators: US allies concerned Senate won't pass annual defense bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay Can America prevent a global warming cold war? MORE (Del.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Advocates see pilot program to address inequalities from highways as crucial first step Democrats plow ahead as Manchin yo-yos MORE (Del.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterFive ways Senate could change Biden's spending plan Five Senate Democrats reportedly opposed to Biden banking nominee Dark money group spent 0M on voter turnout in 2020 MORE (Mont.) and independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingAmazon, Facebook, other large firms would pay more under proposed minimum tax, Warren's office says Senators look to defense bill to move cybersecurity measures Energy information chief blames market for high fuel prices MORE (Maine).

Senators in the party appear to recognize the scrutiny they are under from an activist base, and support for ending the filibuster is growing within the Senate Democratic caucus.

Sen. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenSenators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall America's clean energy future cannot stop at state lines Hillicon Valley — Immigrants being put in surveillance programs MORE (D-Nev.) backtracked after telling The Washington Post that she supported reforming instead of canceling the rule, later saying in a statement that she did support killing it off if necessary to pass voting rights legislation and as a means for “protecting democracy.”

King similarly said he would “choose democracy” after previously expressing hesitation about completely ending the practice. 

Tester, who like Manchin represents a red state that twice voted for Trump, told MSNBC this week that he’s “still for getting folks on both sides together and try and make the filibuster work,” but seemed to suggest he would support changes too.

“At some point in time this country needs Congress to act and get things done,” he said.

Two sources outside of the Senate who want to get rid of the filibuster said Tester’s remarks were seen as a positive development.

As activists seek to pile on the pressure, they say they want Democrats beyond Manchin and Sinema to feel the heat.

“Everything about this is concerning,” Sanberg said. “We in the United States Senate aren’t beholden to our constituents. That’s really how they’re acting. It’s like an unelected House of Lords.”