Progressive groups ask for town hall with Feinstein to talk filibuster

Progressive groups ask for town hall with Feinstein to talk filibuster
© Greg Nash

More than 70 progressive groups are urging Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinF-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack Democrat rips Justice for not appearing at US gymnastics hearing MORE (D-Calif.) to schedule a town hall during the Senate's current two-week break to talk about the filibuster and election reforms. 

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Hill in advance of its release, was sent to Feinstein on Thursday in the latest effort by progressive groups to pressure Feinstein, as voting rights remain stuck in limbo in the Senate because Democrats don't have enough GOP support or total Democratic unity needed to nix the 60-vote legislative filibuster. 

"During the Town Hall, we would like to hear from you directly regarding your current positions on the status of our democracy, the importance of swiftly passing the For the People Act, and your openness to filibuster reform, as needed, to pass this crucial legislation," the groups wrote. 

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The groups added that passing the For the People Act — a sweeping bill to overhaul federal elections that was previously blocked by a GOP filibuster — was a "crucial first step toward defending our democracy" and that they want an "opportunity to ask you questions about your positions." 

Spokespeople for Feinstein didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter, or if she already had town halls scheduled during the Senate break. 

The Senate is currently in the middle of its two-week July recess. Senators left town on June 24 and are set to return to Washington, D.C. on July 12. 

Feinstein, who won reelection in 2018, has been a years-long target of progressive frustration. 

Many of the same groups also sent her a letter in late June ahead of the Senate's vote on the For the People Act 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 passed through the Senate. 

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 Election Commission, place tighter rules on congressional redistricting, overhaul campaign finance and establish new ethics requirements for the president and vice president.

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But progressive groups have struggled to lock down where she is on making changes to the Senate's legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most bills to pass through the Senate. 

Feinstein indicated earlier this year that she was open to making changes to the filibuster as they faced a logjam on voting rights. 

"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 "nonissue," but then indicated more recently that she is open to discussions. 

She told the Sacramento Bee late last month that she was "thinking about it." She added in a separate statement that she had received letters and calls from constituents "frustrated by the lack of action" in the Senate. 

"I agree with them,” she said. “I understand their concern and I’m giving the matter a lot of thought. I look forward to continued discussions with my colleagues on how to solve problems for the American people.”