Last week, President Joe Biden indicated that he’s finally ready to back filibuster reform—almost. First, he said in a CNN town hall, he’s got to get the big economic and social infrastructure bill negotiated with Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. After that’s done, he said, “I am open to fundamentally altering it.”
“We’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster,” he said, adding “remains to be seen exactly what that means in terms of ‘fundamentally’—on whether or not we just end the filibuster straight up.” Of course, that is also going to depend on Manchin and Sinema, the loudest, squeakiest, and most selfish and arrogant anti-reform wheels of the Democratic congress. The negotiations that those two continue to draw out, however, are creating a massive problem for him.
“What it’s done is prevented me from getting deeply up to my ears—which I’m going to do once this is done—in dealing with police brutality, dealing with the whole notion of: What are we going to do about voting rights,” Biden said. “It’s the greatest assault on voting rights in the history of the United States—for real—since the Civil War.”
The White House followed those remarks up on Friday, when Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters to “stay tuned” on what changes Biden would advocate. Biden, she said, believes “we are at an inflection point on a range of issues” and that “not getting voting rights done is not an option.” Nor is not raising the debt ceiling, as he pointed out in the town hall on Thursday. “I think the president will have more to say about this in the coming weeks,” she added.
Maybe that’s why Manchin came out of the gates Monday declaring all the things he still won’t accept in Biden’s big plan. If he can just keep on moving those goalposts, he won’t have to face filibuster reform and add even more fuel to his colleagues’ smoldering rage against him. Because his colleagues are getting pretty fed up.
A one-time anti-reform senator Manchin should related to, Maine Independent Angus King, is ready. “I’ve concluded that democracy itself is more important than any Senate rule,” he said last week after Republicans, again, blocked a voting rights and election reform bill, the Freedom to Vote Act Manchin worked on with Democrats and King.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, King added: “I think what I’m not really ready to say is, let’s get rid of [the filibuster] altogether because I think there are circumstances where it makes sense. So I prefer some alternative to what the present rule is. I’d like to restore the Senate to what it was, where we actually had debates and people had to hold the floor.”
“One of the problems now is [the minority] don’t even have to show up,” he added. “They don’t have to speak, they don’t have to do anything. It just sort of becomes an automatic supermajority requirement, which isn’t in the Constitution, and the framers were diametrically opposed to that concept.” That’s a theme Democrats are leaning on more and more lately—that the traditional, conservative, patriotic thing to do is restore the Senate. Here’s Majority Leader Chuck Schumer:
“Members of this body now face a choice—they can follow in the footsteps of our patriotic predecessors in this chamber,” Schumer said. “Or they can sit by as the fabric of our democracy unravels before our very eyes.” And by “members,” he’s saying, “Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.”