Sinema scuttles hopes for filibuster reform

Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaThe names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Poll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats Schumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' MORE (D-Ariz.) doubled down on her support for the 60-vote legislative filibuster Tuesday, roughly an hour before President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia 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 McConnellSchumer vows to vote on Biden Supreme Court pick with 'all deliberate speed' It's time for 'Uncle Joe' to take off the gloves against Manchin and Sinema Democrats should ignore Senators Manchin and Sinema MORE (Ky.) and Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThere is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections Juan Williams: It's Trump vs. McConnell for the GOP's future Biden's year two won't be about bipartisanship  MORE (S.D.), Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyRomney participating in fundraiser for Liz Cheney Budowsky: President Biden leads NATO against Russian aggression Officer who directed rioters away from senators says Jan. 6 could have been a 'bloodbath' MORE (Utah), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsClyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement No. 3 Senate Democrat says Biden should tap Black woman for Supreme Court 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 CruzFlake meets with Erdoğan in first official duties as US ambassador Senate Republicans press federal authorities for information on Texas synagogue hostage-taker Biden trails generic Republican in new poll, would face tight race against Trump 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 say change to filibuster just a matter of time Democrats call on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Manchin, Sinema join GOP to sink filibuster change for voting bill 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 ManchinOn The Money — No SALT, and maybe no deal The names to know as Biden mulls Breyer's replacement Poll: Sinema approval higher among Arizona Republicans than Democrats 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 TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world 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.