With the Senate back in session this week after the Memorial Day break, and the House out of session but still working in committees, the usual summer legislative crunch is setting it. Between now and the end of this fiscal year, the Senate has just 48 legislative days scheduled, and that's if you are being ridiculously generous about their work ethic and count Mondays and Fridays.
That's 48 days to do infrastructure, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, equal pay AND budget and debt ceiling. Judging by past and current performance, that's not happening. There are also nominees, some still left over on the executive side as well as judicial nominations, that need to be confirmed. What this means is that along with other reforms we need to see from the Senate—starting with Joe Manchin producing 10 Republicans who will stand beside him and will publicly declare with cameras rolling that they will vote with Democrats on all the stuff that matters—the Senate needs to cancel all the recesses until this stuff gets done.
The House gets to go on recess. After all, they still work. They've sent a bunch of bills over already, and even during this recess are holding hearings and having meetings and doing work. They get to have some breaks. The Senate? The Senate deserves no rest.
Let's start with the Manchin part of this. This is assuming that if Manchin finally breaks and agrees to do something with the filibuster, like lowering the vote threshold to 55 instead of 60 votes as a possibility, then Kyrsten Sinema won't have his cover and will start thinking about the likelihood that she'll have to face a primary in 2024. But one arrogant, preening, attention-loving asshole at a time.
Biden and Schumer need to have a sit-down with Manchin in which they explain everything they've done thus far to give Republicans a chance to play nice which is a massively frustrating lot, and then they give him a job. Get those 10 Republicans he insists are good people who want to help to say so, publicly. If he can line up those votes, then he gets to help shape legislation. If he doesn't, there won't be any bridges in West Virginia bearing his name.
In the meantime, have that vote on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, the one one Republican is saying she'll support. That one Republican is Alaska's Lisa Murkowski. Let that be filibustered. Let it get another majority vote, maybe 53 or 54 if Susan Collins and Rob Portman and maybe Pat Toomey feel like the need to help Manchin out on this.
Perhaps this group will discover what has been glaringly obvious to the rest of us for months: their real power would come from becoming a swing caucus. Someone in that group must give a damn about accomplishing something while in the Senate.
If they succeeded in support a modification to the filibuster—following the precedence of Manchin's predecessor Robert Byrd—to lowering the threshold to 55 votes, they could hold all the cards. It would not be ideal to give any cards to Republicans, but as it is Manchin has pretty much given them the deck.
If one, say Schumer, wanted to be really Machiavellian about it, he could point out just how much power one Republican, say Murkowski, could have if the filibuster were entirely eliminated, but let's not get greedy. The point now is finding a way to break Manchin's stranglehold and to make him do some damn work.
Taking away his recess is one way to try that. It also just needs to happen. The Senate has got far too much to accomplish to be swanning off for more than half the summer.