Sinema defends filibuster ahead of Senate voting rights showdown

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is digging in on her opposition to nixing the 60-vote legislative filibuster amid growing pressure from progressives to change the rules to help pass voting rights.  

Sinema, in a Washington Post op-ed, argued that nixing the legislative filibuster would weaken “democracy’s guardrails” and that the country would “lose much more than we gain.” 

“It’s no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate’s 60-vote threshold. … My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy. The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles,” Sinema wrote.

Sinema’s op-ed comes one day before the Senate will hold a vote on trying to advance the For the People Act, a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections. Sinema supports the bill, but it is guaranteed to fail to advance because of a GOP filibuster. 

If Democrats are able to unite their own caucus behind the bill — something that is unclear as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) goes down to the wire on his decision — it’s expected to pour fuel onto calls for Democrats to nix the filibuster. 

Filibuster reform advocates have been adamant that Republicans blocking the For the People Act on the Senate floor could move Democratic holdouts toward changing or getting rid of the legislative filibuster. 

Sinema, however, poured cold water on that warning that if Democrats followed through with that Republicans, once back in the majority, could roll the bill back and replace it with “a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections.”

While reiterating that she doesn’t support getting rid of the 60-vote legislative filibuster, Sinema did call for the Senate to publicly debate it. 

“It is time for the Senate to debate the legislative filibuster, so senators and our constituents can hear and fully consider the concerns and consequences. Hopefully, senators can then focus on crafting policies through open legislative processes and amendments, finding compromises that earn broad support,” Sinema wrote. 

Sinema and Manchin are on the record as opposing getting rid of the filibuster, but several other Democratic senators are viewed as wary of making changes. 

Sinema appeared to tip her hand toward those other Democratic senators in her op-ed, noting that several Democrats signed a 2017 letter in support of the legislative filibuster and saying that she is “confident that several senators in my party still share that belief.”

But progressives have been ramping up pressure on Democrats, including Sinema, as they try to build momentum for changing the filibuster. 

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 more than 140 LGBTQ advocates in Arizona released a letter on Monday urging Sinema to support nixing the legislative filibuster in order to pass the Equality Act. 

The advocates, in a veiled threat of a primary challenge when Sinema is up for reelection in 2024, said that if she didn’t come out for nixing the filibuster, they “will have no choice but to seriously consider whether our support for you, including financial donations, may better serve our community if directed to another Democrat.” 

Tags Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema
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