By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE SENIOR REPORTER
(The Center Square) — The same week that President Joe Biden called for “getting rid of” the filibuster to push through Democrats’ agenda on federalizing elections, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., doubled down on her opposition to ousting the long-established Senate rule.
Despite Democratic leadership’s push to alter the filibuster to pass legislation for a federal takeover of state elections, a bipartisan majority has remained in opposition. Sen. Sinema doubled down in that opposition Thursday, casting serious doubts on any changes to Senate rules.
“There’s no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation,” Sen. Sinema said from the Senate floor Thursday. “There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy. This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”
Sen. Sinema went on to argue that removing the filibuster would only add to the nation’s division, not unity.
“But what is the legislative filibuster, other than a tool that requires new federal policy to be broadly supported by senators, representing the broader cross-section of Americans,” Sen. Sinema said. “Demands to eliminate this threshold from whichever party holds the fleeting majority amount to a group of people separated on two sides of a canyon, shouting that solution to their colleagues.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., has also expressed reservations about nixing the filibuster. Politico reports that multiple other Democratic senators, including Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., are on the fence as well. Their opposition makes changing the Senate rules, or passing the Democrats’ federal voting bill, unlikely.
“We need some good rules changes to make the place work better,” Sen. Manchin told reporters this week. “But getting rid of the filibuster doesn’t make it work better.”
Sen. Sinema quietly pushed back against Mr. Biden’s “Build Back Better” legislation last year, but Thursday’s floor speech was a public rebuttal of the president’s call to action earlier this week.
President Biden delivered a blistering speech in Atlanta Tuesday where he accused opponents of Democrats’ voting legislation of racism, opposing Democracy and wanting “chaos to reign.” He advocated for “getting rid of” the filibuster to push through federal voting laws that would give the federal government sweeping control of state elections.
President Biden argued that Republican state legislatures’ legislative efforts in recent years to shore up election integrity were actually attempts at voter suppression. Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer has made similar comments and called for changing the filibuster rules.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell responded to those comments, calling them “profoundly unpresidential.”
“The president repeatedly invoked the Jan. 6 riot while himself using irresponsible, delegitimizing rhetoric that undermines our democracy,” McConnell said. “The sitting president of the United States of America compared American states to ‘totalitarian states.’”
A key line of attack against the Democratic effort to end the filibuster has been their previous positions on the issue. Both President Biden and Sen. Schumer have publicly supported the filibuster in the past.
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., lambasted Sen. Schumer for just that in a speech from the Senate floor, repeating Sen. Schumer’s previous comments that removing the filibuster would make the Senate “the rubber stamp of dictatorship.”
“The bottom line is very simple: the ideologues in the Senate want to turn what the Founding Fathers called the cooling saucer of democracy into the rubber stamp of dictatorship,” Sen. Cotton said, reiterating Sen. Schumer’s past comments. “They want to make this country into a banana republic where if you don’t get your way, you change the rules! Are we going to let them? It will be a doomsday for democracy if we do.”
Casey Harper works at The Center Square’s Washington, D.C., bureau.