Schumer Delivers Ultimatum on Filibuster; Sinema and Manchin Say “Nah”
[guest post by JVW]
Chuck Schumer continues to run the Senate like a poker player who thinks that his pair of fours is actually three Aces:
Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday that the chamber would debate eliminating the filibuster in the coming weeks if Republicans refuse to join Democrats in passing sweeping voting legislation.
While the filibuster was designed to empower the minority party in the Senate, Schumer argued that it now serves to “embarrass the will of the majority,” against the founders’ intentions for legislative procedure. He claimed that Republicans should not be allowed to block the Freedom to Vote Act, using the vehicle of the filibuster, that only further enshrines and expands the American right to vote.
Schumer has previously expressed support for altering the filibuster but the statement is his strongest in favor of the idea.
The “will of the majority” isn’t truly the will of a “majority” when your side has 50 Senators and the other side has 50 Senators leaving you dependent upon the Vice-President of the United States casting a tie-breaking vote, that is assuming you can hold together all 50 members of your caucus. And indeed, Sen. Schumer is being smacked straight in the face with the reality that his caucus is not united on this issue. From Axios:
Voting rights: Schumer says the Senate will vote on a package of Senate rules changes by Jan. 17 — less than two weeks away.
* While Manchin said he’s still talking with his colleagues, he isn’t on board with a filibuster carve-out for voting rights — calling it “a heavy lift” — and isn’t willing to go nuclear and eliminate the filibuster altogether.
* “Once you change a rule, or you have a carve-out … you eat the whole turkey,” the senator told a COVID-thinned group of pool reporters on Tuesday.
* He added that he would want any reform of Senate rules to have GOP buy-in — a long-shot to near impossible ask.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), also a key holdout to major filibuster reform, reiterated during the Democratic lunch she will not support any effort to get rid of the 60-vote threshold, according to two sources familiar with the call.
* Sinema has been having one-on-one talks with her colleagues for weeks, one of the sources said.
(Yes, I hate Axios’ use of bullet points in this manner too.)
I get that Chuck Schumer finds himself trying to steer the Democrats’ ship through the rocky shoals of gridlock and partisanship while trying to avoid as much as possible the siren song of the Sanders-Warren left, but for the life of me I can’t understand why he would make these bold pronouncements before he’s sure that he has the votes lined up. Remember when Sen. Schumer haughtily announced that the Senate would vote on Build Back Better despite the opposition of Sen. Manchin, because the Majority Leader thought it was important to have all Senators vote on record for the public to see? Senate Dems have clearly abandoned that plan, and it’s not too much of a stretch to speculate that they may have lost the votes of other Senate Democrats (Krysten Sinema, Jon Tester) thus embarrassing themselves and the Biden Administration, and a “yes” vote on a failed bill could cause problems for some purplish state Democrat Senators facing reelection this year (Mark Kelly, Michael Bennett, Raphael Warnock, Catherine Cortez Masto, Maggie Hassan).
My advice to Senate Democrats is to jettison Chuck Schumer as Majority Leader and find someone who doesn’t believe that leadership is all about antagonizing colleagues whose votes you desperately need. Somebody less addicted to the limelight would probably be a better choice for Democrats given the circumstances. As much as the United States Senate really does not need another Bernard Sanders or Elizabeth Lieawtha Warren, at this point I might even be willing to root for our Adorably Ornery Clueless niece to defeat him in a primary — remote though that possibility may be — especially if she then goes on to lose to a Republican in the fall. Weirder things have happened.