Senate

Sanders calls out Manchin, Sinema ahead of filibuster showdown

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday name-checked Democratic Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.) as a months-long push to change the legislative filibuster and pass voting rights legislation is poised to come to a head this week. 

Sanders, in a tweet, asked whether all 50 Democrats will support changing the filibuster, which requires 60 votes for most legislation to advance in the Senate, noting that it is the one vote that really matters. To change the rules without GOP support, Democrats will need total unity from their caucus. 

“As the voting rights bill finally comes to the floor of the Senate, there is only one vote which will really matter. Will 50 Democrats vote to override the filibuster, protect American democracy and pass the bill, or will Manchin and Sinema vote with the GOP and let the bill die?” Sanders said in the tweet. 

Sanders’s tweet comes as the Senate is expected to formally start debate on voting legislation on Tuesday, with Democrats taking up legislation that combines the Freedom to Vote Act, which would overhaul federal elections and campaign finance laws, with the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would strengthen the 1965 Voting Rights Act. 

Though Democrats are using a procedural loophole to sidestep the 60 votes typically needed to start debate on a bill, they’ll still need GOP help to end debate. That vote, which would require 10 GOP senators to vote with Democrats to advance the legislation, is expected on Wednesday, according to a scheduling update from Senate Democrats. 

Republicans, however, are expected to use the filibuster to block the voting rights bill from advancing. Once that happens, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has vowed that he will force a vote on changing the Senate’s rules. 

“Members of this chamber were elected to debate and to vote, particularly on an issue as vital to the beating heart of our democracy as this one, and we will proceed. And if the Senate Republicans choose obstruction over protecting the sacred right to vote, as we expect them to, the Senate will consider and vote on changing the Senate rules,” Schumer said during a scheduling update late last week. 

But Democrats don’t have the votes they need to change the rules. 

Both Manchin and Sinema reiterated last week that they do not support changes to the 60-vote hurdle. The statements, while reiterating long-held positions, came around President Biden’s meeting with Senate Democrats in which he urged them to change the rules to pass voting rights legislation without GOP support. Democrats view voting legislation as urgent as GOP-controlled state legislatures enact new legislation following the 2020 election, which former President Trump falsely claims was “stolen.” 

Manchin, however, said in a statement that he would “not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” Sinema, in a floor speech, reiterated that while she supports the voting bills, she also has “long-standing support” for the legislative filibuster. 

“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. 

In addition to Sinema and Manchin, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) hasn’t endorsed a specific rules change proposal, while some other Democrats haven’t weighed in directly on using the “nuclear option,” the term for changing the rules with a simple majority. 

Even though the effort seems doomed to fail, Democrats are vowing to push forward this week with the votes. They haven’t yet unveiled what their rules change proposal will be. 

They are debating creating a carveout for the filibuster that would exempt voting legislation from the 60-vote hurdle while leaving it intact for other bills. Another idea would be to adopt a talking filibuster that would allow opponents to delay a bill for as long as they could hold the floor, but once they stopped, the bill would be able to pass by a simple majority. 

Senate