Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team The Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters MORE (D-Ariz.) doubled down on her support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster Tuesday, roughly an hour before President BidenJoe BidenUS threatens sweeping export controls against Russian industries Headaches intensify for Democrats in Florida US orders families of embassy staff in Ukraine to leave country MORE meets with Democrats to push for changing the Senate rule in order to pass voting rights legislation. 

“I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country,” Sinema said during a Senate floor speech.  

She added that she has had “long-standing support” for the legislative filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance in the Senate. 

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“It is the view I continue to hold. It is the belief I have shared many times in public settings and in private settings,” Sinema said. “Eliminating the 60-vote threshold will simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool that we need to safeguard our democracy.”

As Sinema was speaking, several GOP senators were on the floor listening to her speech: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 MORE (Ky.) and Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSmall ranchers say Biden letting them get squeezed These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Watch: GOP leaders discuss Biden's first year in office MORE (S.D.), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team Put partisan politics aside — The Child Tax Credit must be renewed immediately Trump remembers former 'Apprentice' contestant Meat Loaf: 'Great guy' MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden clarifies his remarks on Russia Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Bipartisan lawmakers announce climate adaptation bill MORE (Maine), Ben SasseBen SasseBiden: A good coach knows when to change up the team Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform Democrats outraged after Manchin opposes Biden spending bill MORE (Neb.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform MORE (Ark.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products Lawmakers press Biden admin to send more military aid to Ukraine MORE (Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisOvernight Energy & Environment — Starting from 'scratch' on climate, spending bill Hillicon Valley — Senate panel advances major antitrust bill Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (N.C.). 

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinThe Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters Effort to overhaul archaic election law wins new momentum Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (Ill.), who spoke before Sinema, and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill Senate GOP blocks election bill, setting up filibuster face-off MORE (Ore.) were at their desks for Sinema’s speech.  

Sinema’s speech is the latest sign that Democrats' bid to change the legislative filibuster is poised to fall short, scuttling their hope of passing voting rights legislation in the face of GOP opposition. But the timing offers a particularly hard gut-punch to Democrats and a reality check at the possibility that Biden is able to unite all 50 Democrats behind changing the filibuster.  

Sinema’s speech comes roughly an hour before Biden is scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill to urge Democrats to pass voting rights legislation even if they have to change the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most bills.   

To change the rules on their own, Democrats would need total unity from all 50 members of their caucus. But despite intense behind-the-scenes talks, they aren’t there yet. 

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Sens. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinVoting rights failed in the Senate — where do we go from here? Biden: A good coach knows when to change up the team The Memo: Biden looks for way to win back deflated Black voters MORE (D-W.Va.) and Sinema haven’t embraced changing the rules. Absent a surprising move by both Democratic senators, the Biden-backed bid to change the filibuster will fall short and scuttle the ability to pass voting rights legislation.  

Manchin has long opposed using the so-called nuclear option to change the Senate’s rules and reiterated this week that rules changes should have bipartisan support in order to be enacted.  

Asked about Sinema’s speech on Thursday, Manchin told reporters that it was an “excellent speech.”
“I think it’s the points that I’ve been making for an awful long time and she has too,” he said.

Aside from the opposition from Manchin and Sinema, Democrats haven’t yet landed on what their rules change proposal will be. The lawmakers are mulling a talking filibuster that would let opponents delay a bill for as long as they could hold the floor but would allow the legislation to pass by a simple majority. 

They are also contemplating a carveout from the 60-vote filibuster for voting rights legislation that would leave the hurdle intact for other bills.  

Changing the filibuster was once viewed as a fringe position, but a growing number of Democratic senators have embraced it in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, which former President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE has falsely claimed was “stolen.”  

Several GOP-controlled state legislatures have also enacted new measures to tighten restrictions on voting following the 2020 elections.

The House passed legislation on Thursday that combines the John LewisJohn LewisDespite Senate setbacks, the fight for voting rights is far from over Arizona Democratic Party executive board censures Sinema McConnell says he made 'inadvertent omission' in voting remarks amid backlash MORE Voting Rights Advancement Act, which strengthens the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act, which overhauls federal elections. 

Once Republicans block the bill, as they are expected to, Schumer has vowed to force a vote on changing the Senate’s rules. Schumer on Thursday morning made a plea to his Democratic colleagues to support changing the filibuster in order to pass voting rights legislation.  

“As we continue this important conversation about the future of our democracy, I ask my Democrat colleagues to consider the following — if the right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy, then how can we in good conscience allow for a situation in which the Republican Party can debate and pass voter suppression laws at the state level with only a simple majority vote, but not allow the United States to do the same?” Schumer asked.  

Sinema reiterated on Thursday that she supports the two voting rights bills and raised a red flag over the state-level changes to voting rules. 

“These state laws have no place in a nation whose government is formed by free, fair and open elections,” Sinema said, while saying they were “symptoms” of bigger divisions with the American political system. 

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“Threats to American Democracy are real,” she said. “I strongly support those efforts to contest these laws in court and to invest significant resources into these states to better organize and stop efforts to restrict access at the ballot box.”

Sinema has long called for a public debate over the Senate’s rules, adding on Thursday that while the “harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute” that the discussion was a “worthy goal.”

“I share the disappointment of many that we’ve not found more support on the other side of the aisle for legislative responses to state-level voting restrictions. I wish that were not the case,” she said.

“Just as I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of the Democratic Party leaders to sit down and genuinely discuss how to reforge common ground on these issues,” Sinema added.

Updated 1:11 p.m.