McConnell drops demand to maintain filibuster after two Dems pledge to preserve it

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to drop his demand that the filibuster rule required for most legislation be maintained as part of a power-sharing arrangement with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after two moderate Democrats agreed to keep it in place.

The Kentucky Republican’s decision on Monday will now make it easier for the chamber to begin forming committees as well as taking on the Biden administration’s legislative priorities.

McConnell agreed to drop the demand after two Democrats repeated earlier pledges to support the legislative filibuster requiring a 60-vote majority to approve bills. The pledges make it a near certainty that the filibuster — which most Democrats wanted to scrap — will remain in place for at least the next two years, Fox News reports.

The 60-vote threshold is not a constitutional requirement but rather a longstanding Senate procedural rule that gives the body its deliberative hallmark.

“I’ve been very clear with you guys,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in response to reporters’ repeated questions about his position on the filibuster Monday. “We’ve got to come together, so I do not support doing away with the filibuster under any condition. It’s not who I am.”

A report in the Washington Post indicated that Sen. Kirsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) was entertaining the notion of ditching the filibuster, but a spokesperson for her office dismissed it, telling the Post that the senator is “against eliminating the filibuster, and she is not open to changing her mind about eliminating the filibuster.”

The on-record statements come as much of the media focused on the attention Democrats have given the legislative procedure after winning the White House and retaining the House, albeit with a much smaller majority than before the 2020 elections.

The commitments from Sinema and Manchin will also give McConnell some leverage moving forward if Schumer and other Democratic leaders push to remove the procedure in the future.

Without the filibuster, legislation in the evenly divided upper chamber could be approved by a simple majority, which currently would come by way of tie-breaking votes from Vice President Kamala Harris.

“Today two Democratic Senators publicly confirmed they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster,” McConnell said Monday. “They agree with President Biden’s and my view that no Senate majority should destroy the right of future minorities of both parties to help shape legislation.

“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001. With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent,” McConnell added.

Meanwhile, Schumer, a New York Democrat who previously described McConnell’s demand to preserve the filibuster as “extraneous” and “unacceptable,” put his own positive spin on the situation Monday.

“We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand,” a Schumer spokesperson said. “We look forward to organizing the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”

The next step now that the filibuster issue appears to have been resolved is the adoption of an “organizing resolution,” which essentially lays out Senate rules for the next two years. Then will come the arduous task of getting some of Biden’s more controversial Cabinet picks approved, along with several pieces of legislation including a new $1.9 trillion COVID relief package, provisions of which — including so-called ‘bailouts’ for Democratic-run states and cities — are opposed by Republicans.

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Jon Dougherty

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