To save our democracy, Democrats must scrap the filibuster

Once again, progress has been stymied by a small minority in the US Senate.

This week started with Senate Democrats engaged in critical negotiations over two pieces of voting rights legislation: the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. With 50 Senate Democrats supporting these bills, they have the votes to pass each. Yet thanks to the legislative filibuster, and the few Democrats who still insist on preserving this outdated Jim Crow-era relic, having the majority of the Senate support these much-needed bills isn’t enough.

Democrats were looking to deploy a “nuclear option” strategy by changing the filibuster itself to pass the two voting rights bills. Many long-time opponents of changing the filibuster, including President Biden, have come around on the need for reform, so some hoped that the last few holdouts would be swayed by the urgency of this issue.

Unfortunately, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema took to the Senate floor a few hours ago to publicly voice her opposition to changing the filibuster, putting the nail in the coffin for this and any other attempts to stop the ongoing attacks on our democracy.

Our elections are in immediate need of safeguarding. GOP state legislatures all over the country are taking alarming steps to disenfranchise voters in Democratic-leaning districts in order to enhance their chances of electoral success. The two pieces of voting rights legislation would go a long way in stopping these egregious efforts, making it absolutely imperative that Democrats somehow pull together at the last minute to pass critical voting protections before the window of opportunity closes with the 2022 midterm elections.

This week, we’re shining a spotlight on the ongoing negotiations among Democrats regarding the filibuster and the two voting rights bills.

Sinema Says She Will Not Support Changing Filibuster by Carl Hulse
Today, House Democrats voted on a party line (220 to 203) to pass legislation that combines both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This allowed the bill to then be brought directly to the Senate floor for debate. Soon after, however, Senator Sinema took to the floor and declared that she would not support changing the filibuster at all, even to pass the voting rights legislation. This is an absurd, shameful position to take, and no one should believe her claims to care about protecting our democracy if she’s prioritizing empty displays of bipartisanship over actually legislating to protect our elections and the right to vote.

Joe Manchin’s arguments for the filibuster keep getting more ludicrous by Greg Sargent
While Sinema is the only Senator to officially take to the Senate floor to declare her opposition to changing the filibuster so far, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin has also made it clear that he has serious misgivings about changing the filibuster. He justifies his position by saying that he supports the two pieces of voting rights legislation but believes that they should be passed on a bipartisan basis. What Manchin sadly fails to recognize is that he and the rest of the Democrats simply cannot depend on any Republican Senators anymore to support safeguarding American elections. Protecting our democracy is simply too important to “wait and see” whether 10 Republicans can muster the courage to do the right thing.

Dems’ filibuster conundrum: It’s not just Manchin and Sinema by Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine
Manchin and Sinema are getting the most heat for their public stances against changing the filibuster. But the fact of the matter is that, even without them, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer may be facing an uphill battle to change the filibuster, at least enough to pass the two pieces of voting rights legislation. This is because there are other Democratic Senators – like Senators Kelly (AZ), Tester (MT), and Shaheen (NH) – that are still undecided as to how exactly they’d like to change the procedural rule. Although the window of opportunity is quickly closing, we hope that Democrats can somehow pull together to do whatever it takes to change the filibuster to save our democracy.

Business executives urge Senate to bypass filibuster to pass voting rights by Karl Evers-Hillstrom
Thankfully, we’re not the only group of wealthy Americans urging Senate Democrats to do the right thing with the filibuster and election reform. Yesterday, the Freedom to Vote Alliance, which includes roughly three dozen high-profile business executives, sent a letter to Senate leaders, calling on them to make necessary changes to the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. We agree with Stacy Schusterman, chairman of Samson Energy and a member of the Freedom to Vote Alliance, who said in a statement: “A strong economy depends on a strong democracy. With the cornerstone of our democracy – the freedom to vote – under attack nationwide, corporate America has an obligation to speak up.”

Before we sign off for the week, we’d like to give a small shoutout to one of our members, Abigail Disney. The Sundance Institute has announced that Abby’s new film – The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales – will be premiering at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival on January 24th. We congratulate Abby on her success and encourage all of you to check the film out!

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