Progressive groups ramp up pressure on Feinstein
A coalition of more than 100 progressive groups in California is ramping up pressure on Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) over the filibuster ahead of a vote this week on a sweeping election bill.
The groups sent a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill ahead of its release, to Feinstein on Monday urging her to “publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger,” and support abolishing or reforming the 60-vote legislative filibuster in order to get the election legislation, known as the For the People Act, passed through the Senate.
“Senator, it is time for you to stand up for democracy – for yourself, for the citizens of California, and for the United States of America. Again, we ask that, in advance of this week’s procedural vote on the For the People Act, you publicly acknowledge that our democracy is in danger,” the groups wrote.
“We also ask that you publicly affirm that you will do everything in your power to help pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act through all means possible, including, if necessary, through abolishing, reforming, or providing an exception to the Senate filibuster,” they added.
Feinstein is a co-sponsor of the For the People Act, which would place national requirements on ballot access and, among other things, change the composition of the Federal Elections Commission, place tighter rules on congressional redistricting, overhaul campaign finance and establish new ethics requirements for the president and vice president.
In a statement released Monday, Feinstein knocked GOP-controlled state legislatures that have debated and in some cases passed new laws tightening voting requirements
“These new voter suppression laws undermine our democracy and can’t be allowed to stand….The truth is that our election systems are secure and widespread voter fraud doesn’t exist. Yet these new state laws show a stubborn commitment to enact changes that would make it harder to vote, not easier. That effort can’t be allowed to continue,” Feinstein said.
Feinstein, reiterated that she supports the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, named after the late Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), adding that she would “continue to work with my Democratic colleagues to find a path forward to pass these critical voting rights bills.”
Feinstein has sparked progressive ire amid shifting stances on the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to pass the Senate. She also earned a new round of backlash earlier this month after she told Forbes that, “If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it. But I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.”
The groups, in Monday’s letter, said that they were “dismayed that such a considered and thoughtful Senator as yourself could fail to perceive the danger of the current moment to our democracy and our country.”
Feinstein, in a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle last week after backlash over her Forbes remarks, said that Congress needed to “find a path forward on voting rights.”
“I strongly support S. 1, the voting rights bill, but the votes simply aren’t there,” she said. “We must respond to any new laws across the country that make it harder to register and harder to vote.”
Feinstein indicated earlier this year that she was open to making changes to the filibuster, including potentially moving to a talking filibuster that would require opponents of a proposal to hold the Senate floor to block a bill.
“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 at the time.
But since then, she’s questioned the need for reforming the filibuster, a procedural tool that a growing number of Democrats are ready to get rid of altogether.
She told NBC in late May that it was a “non-issue.”
“I don’t see us abolishing the 60-vote threshold. I don’t,” she said.
The filibuster is deeply tied to the Senate’s debate over the For the People Act and a more narrow John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
To get either bill through the Senate under the current rules, Democrats need the support of at least 10 GOP senators.
The Senate will hold a key test vote on Tuesday on the For the People Act, where the bill is expected to fail to advance due to a GOP filibuster. Every Republican senator is expected to vote against the bill.
Assuming Democrats are able to unite all 50 of their members behind an updated version of the legislation—leadership is still working to lock down support from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) — that will only pour new fuel on Democrats to try to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster.
But Democrats don’t have the support yet to do that. Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) are deeply opposed to changing the Senate’s rules and several other senators are viewed as wary.
Feinstein isn’t the only Democrat coming under renewed focus.
A coalition of progressive organizations on Monday announced the launch of a $1.5 million television ad campaign targeting Sinema over her opposition to filibuster reform and a $15 per hour minimum wage.
And Fix Our Senate, an outside group supportive of nixing the filibuster, launched a seven-figure ad campaign on Monday that will start with ads in Delaware and Rhode Island — home to Democratic Sens. Chris Coons (Del.), Tom Carper (Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Jack Reed (R.I.), before expanding to other states in coming weeks.
–Updated at 2:38 p.m.