Schumer Signals Vote on 'Nuclear Option' to Eliminate Senate’s Filibuster
Do you support or oppose eliminating the Senate filibuster?
by Causes | 1.11.22
What’s the story?
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) tweeted Tuesday that he will soon call a vote on changing the Senate’s rules to eliminate the legislative filibuster to allow the passage of Democrats’ election reform bill along party-lines. While it’s unclear at this time when the vote will occur, the effort appears destined to fail, given that it lacks the unanimous support of all 50 Democratic senators.
- Schumer tweeted that a vote could occur as early as Wednesday and explained in remarks on the Senate floor:
“(I)f Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the Senate to prevent voting rights from happening, if they continue paralyzing this chamber to the point where we’re helpless to fight back against the Big Lie, we must consider the necessary steps we can take so the Senate can adapt and act.”
- Schumer’s push to end the filibuster comes as a stark reversal of his position when Republicans held the majority. As minority leader in 2017, Schumer said that he wanted to “find a way to build a firewall around the legislative filibuster” and prevent the Senate from becoming “a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change.” Similarly, when Democrats were in the minority in 2005, Schumer argued that eliminating the filibuster would upend the role of the Senate and be “a doomsday for democracy”:
“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. We will not let them. They want, because they can’t get their way on every judge, to change the rules in mid-stream, to wash away 200 years of history. 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’ll be a doomsday for democracy if we do.”
- Schumer’s power play is likely to fail whenever the vote occurs because some Democratic senators remain opposed to eliminating the legislative filibuster despite pressure from their party’s congressional leadership and the White House.
- Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have repeatedly affirmed their commitment to preserving the 60 vote threshold for most legislation, and insist that the filibuster fosters bipartisanship on important legislative issues. While they have expressed some willingness to discuss certain rules changes, any rules change that opens the door to gutting the filibuster appears to be off-limits, with Manchin saying of a limited filibuster carve-out, “Anytime there’s a carve-out, you eat the whole turkey.”
- There may be other Democratic senators who ultimately join Manchin and Sinema in voting against eliminating the filibuster. Several Democrats ― including Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Jon Tester (D-MT) ― have said they want to see specific proposals before committing to nixing the filibuster. In 2017, Coons and Tester were both among the 61 signatories of a bipartisan letter to express support for maintaining the Senate’s legislative filibuster.
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke Tuesday on the Senate floor where he warned Democrats against eliminating the filibuster. McConnell argued that a post-filibuster Senate would lose the collegiality and unanimity the chamber relies upon to conduct much of its business:
“A post-nuclear Senate would not be more efficient or more productive. I personally guarantee it. Do my colleagues understand how many times per day the Senate needs and gets unanimous consent for basic housekeeping? Do they understand how many things could require roll call votes? How often the minority could demand lengthy debate? Our colleagues who are itching for a procedural nuclear winter have not even begun to contemplate how it would look. Our colleagues who are itching to drain every drop of collegiality from this body have not even begun to consider how that would work.”
- Manchin Rejects Democrats’ ‘For the People Act’ & Reiterates Support for Preserving Senate’s Filibuster (6/7/21)
- Democrats Flip-Flop on the Filibuster After Winning the Senate Majority (3/30/21)
- Senate Nears Powersharing Deal After Moderate Dems Vow to Preserve Filibuster (1/29/21)
- Should Senate Democrats Eliminate the Legislative Filibuster (1/25/21)
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Senate Democrats via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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