Progressives say pressure on Democratic centrists over ending the filibuster needs to move beyond Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by the American Petroleum Institute — Biden seeks to quell concerns over climate proposals MORE (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaBiden injects new momentum into filibuster fight On The Money — Democrats confident cuts won't water down bill Sinema's office outlines opposition to tax rate hikes 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 Feinstein Ban on new offshore drilling must stay in the Build Back Better Act Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair Jane Fonda to push for end to offshore oil drilling in California MORE (D-Calif.), who irritated progressives by hugging Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress McCain: Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner had 'no goddamn business' attending father's funeral Mayorkas tests positive for COVID-19 breakthrough case MORE (R-S.C.) last year during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettA politicized Supreme Court? That was the point Solid majority believes Supreme Court rulings based more on politics than law Locked and Loaded: Supreme Court is ready for a showdown on the Second Amendment MORE, former President TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE’s pick to succeed liberal hero Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgKatie Couric says she felt 'betrayed' by Lauer after sexual assault allegations Couric defends editing of RBG interview Biden's Supreme Court commission ends not with a bang but a whimper 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 BidenHow 'Buy American', other pro-US policies can help advocates pass ambitious climate policies Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Photos of the Week: Manchin protestor, Paris Hilton and a mirror room 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 SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Study finds Pfizer vaccine almost 91 percent effective for 5 to 11 year olds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises 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) HassanPoll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Progressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races MORE (N.H.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenProgressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (N.H.), Chris CoonsChris Andrew CoonsManchin threatens 'zero' spending in blowup with Sanders: reports Defense & National Security — Military starts giving guidance on COVID-19 vaccine refusals Blinken pressed to fill empty post overseeing 'Havana syndrome' MORE (Del.), Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperDemocrats say they're committed to reducing emissions in Biden plan Is the Biden administration afraid of trade? Congress sends 30-day highway funding patch to Biden after infrastructure stalls MORE (Del.), Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Manchin, Sanders in budget feud; Biden still upbeat Democratic frustration with Sinema rises Which proposals will survive in the Democrats' spending plan? MORE (Mont.) and independent Sen. Angus KingAngus KingPennsylvania Republican becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats GOP blocks Senate Democrats' revised elections bill 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 RosenProgressives push back on decision to shrink Biden's paid family leave program Nevada becomes early Senate battleground Hillicon Valley — Presented by American Edge Project — Americans blame politicians, social media for spread of misinformation: poll 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.”