Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaClyburn calls for full-court press on voting rights Swing-state voters concerned about Build Back Better's impact on inflation: poll Voto Latino CEO: Sinema will have a 'very difficult pathway' in 2024 reelection MORE (D-Ariz.) doubled down on her support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster Tuesday, roughly an hour before President BidenJoe BidenCourt nixes offshore drilling leases auctioned by Biden administration Laquan McDonald's family pushes for federal charges against officer ahead of early release Biden speaks with Ukrainian president amid Russian threat 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 McConnellMcConnell: I'm going to give Biden's Supreme Court nominee 'a fair look' Progressive millionaire group backs Cisneros, McBath in first public endorsements Clyburn calls for full-court press on voting rights MORE (Ky.) and Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell aims to sidestep GOP drama over Trump There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future MORE (S.D.), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyBuild Back Smaller: What's the best path forward for Democrats? Romney participating in fundraiser for Liz Cheney Budowsky: President Biden leads NATO against Russian aggression MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsMcConnell: I'm going to give Biden's Supreme Court nominee 'a fair look' The Hill's Morning Report - Who will replace Justice Breyer? Senate set for muted battle over Breyer successor MORE (Maine), Ben SasseBen SasseSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections MORE (Neb.), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Tom CottonTom Bryant CottonSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Sunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion Senate's antitrust bill would raise consumer prices and lower our competitiveness MORE (Ark.), Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzProgressive millionaire group backs Cisneros, McBath in first public endorsements Manchin and Sinema must help Biden make the Supreme Court look more like America Flake meets with Erdoğan in first official duties as US ambassador MORE (Texas) and Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections MORE (N.C.). 

Democratic Sens. Dick DurbinDick DurbinSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law Democrats ask for information on specialized Border Patrol teams MORE (Ill.), who spoke before Sinema, and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats press cryptomining companies on energy consumption Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans 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 ManchinOvernight Health Care — ObamaCare gets record numbers On The Money — Economy had post-recession growth in 2021 Progressives apply pressure on Biden, Senate to pass Build Back Better 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 TrumpMark Walker to stay in North Carolina Senate race Judge lays out schedule for Eastman to speed up records processing for Jan. 6 panel Michael Avenatti cross-examines Stormy Daniels in his own fraud trial 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 LewisIt's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Trump and Biden should stop denigrating US elections Democrats say change to filibuster just a matter of time 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.