During the 2020 election season, and especially before the Senate runoff elections in Georgia, Republicans warned of the possible outcomes of a Democratic takeover of the Senate. The concern was that a Democratic majority would end the legislative filibuster as part of the Senate rules.
The prospect of going to a simple majority for passing ordinary bills out of the Senate gave Democrats an opening to campaign on big plans. They either discussed or made promises about packing the Supreme Court with a new majority of their appointees, granting statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, and other permanent changes to the structure of the federal government.
Of course, because of the likelihood of a tie-break vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, Democrats ended up with an overwhelming majority in the Senate. Since the election, ending the filibuster has been the vehicle Democrats have pressed to pass the “For the People” bill, which would grant control over every state’s election procedures to the federal government.
However, since ending the filibuster became a serious issue, at least two Democratic senators have been less than fully committed.
In the radical sections of the democratic agenda, Kyrsten Sinema, elected to the Arizona Senate in 2018, knows well her prospects in re-election. She was a very loud filibuster advocate and publicly appears to be aware that the revocation of today’s filibuster would damage her party tomorrow.
Since 2010 Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia is excellent at preserving his conservative electoral rhetoric while maintaining his position in the Washington power structure, his party.
He has recently taken a public position vigorously defending the filibuster, only to then signal to his party that there is a price for his vote to scrap it. Manchin’s vote is likely more tied to his current needs than what might be best for his party’s future when the day of Republican Senate control returns.
Manchin has become a focal point of many Democrats’ attempts to end the filibuster. In particular, President Joe Biden is being pressured by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) to bring Manchin into line. Clyburn was instrumental in delivering South Carolina to Biden over Bernie Sanders in the last primary there.
Clyburn has stated that Biden should press Manchin to come along, saying, “I don’t care whether he does it in a microphone or on the telephone, just do it.”
The behind-the-scenes pressure on both Sinema and Manchin is sure to build up as the crucial 2022 midterm season rapidly approaches.