How Biden went to filibuster reform – and missed with Manchin and Sinema

Biden spoke of Byrd – with whom he served in the Senate – for some time during his meeting with the 50-member Democratic caucus, arguing that the late West Virginian believed that Senate rules were not static and should be developed. Later in the discussion, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Said Byrd had repeatedly maneuvered to change the smaller-scale Senate rules by simple majority – the same kind of move that Merkley and other progressives have sold to almost all members of their party. on to do.

“Joe asked a question about changes in Senate rules. And Joe [Biden] told about his experience. He had been here for 36 years. That has changed a lot. The point he made is that Senate rules are not sacred, “Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) Said after the visit. “President Biden spoke like a senator who saw the rules change a lot, and talked about the rules changing because times change.”

But Thursday was a painful day for reformers in Senate rules. The commander-in-chief, who came to the Senate to get one last push on rule changes, could not shake the opposition of Manchin and his fellow centrist senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

In fact, Manchin and Sinema only dig in.

After the caucus meeting, Manchin declared in a new statement that “I will not vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster.” He quoted Byrd’s testimony from the Senate Rules Committee in 2010, in which Byrd stressed the need to protect the filibuster, but also condemned its excessive use. His stiff arm was a major blow to Biden and to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s push for changes in Senate rules along party lines.

Even when Democrats signed up for their caucus meeting with Biden to change Senate rules to reform federal elections, a response to GOP-backed state laws designed to restrict access to ballots, a good portion of them were unaware that they had already lost. Just minutes before the group’s meeting with Biden, Sinema slammed the door to weaken the filibuster during a speech in the Senate, which Biden once called home.

“People were just surprised when we went in there. Because no one knew she was on the floor talking” in defense of the filibuster, “said a Democratic senator who missed Sinema’s remarks. “There were probably 20 people in there who did not even know she had said anything.”

Biden had prepared remarks for the meeting, but instead chose to speak outside the cuff, remembering that he got the late Senator Strom Thurmond (RS.C.) to support the Voting Rights Act while they were both in Congress, arguing that a majority of today’s Republicans today would not support the landmark bill. Biden told senators he could not remember a time in American history when a party had become so obsessed with one person that the GOP is facing former President Donald Trump.

Unlike Manchin, Sinema did not ask Biden a question during his approximately 90-minute visit with the caucus. There was perhaps not much to say: Sinema made it crystal clear during her speech that although she supports voting and electoral reform proposals, she “will not support separate actions that exacerbate the underlying disease with divisions that infect our country.”

Many Democrats declined to comment on Sinema’s prebuttal speech to Biden, who privately ranked some who thought she should at least hear the president out. Late. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) Remarked, “The timing is interesting.”

During his meeting with the Democrats, Biden also sought to clarify a Wednesday attempt to speak with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell after the Kentucky Republican slammed the president for a speech in Atlanta that called on the civil rights movement to push for the bill on voting reform.

Biden told senators he does not think McConnell can be compared to segregationists from the civil rights era, and asked Republicans what team they want to be on when it comes to voting rights.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.) spoke inside the room to ask Biden what he would say to colleagues who were worried Republicans would benefit from a weakened filibuster when they regain Senate power. Biden responded that the GOP is currently very divided, saying Republicans would have trouble managing priorities with a majority as slim as 52 seats.

The president spoke briefly to reporters after the visit, observing the long odds he faces: “The honest answer to God is, I do not know if we can get this done.”

For some, it is obvious that no amount of private lobbying from Sinema’s colleagues, no public criticism from activists and no floor vote to change the rules will cause her to change position.

“Obviously she telegraphed that she would not change her mind,” said Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). “So there you go.”

With Sinema and Manchin’s recent statements, Schumer now faces a choice: Hold a vote on the Senate floor destined for failure that will share his caucus, or move on. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House would continue to fight.

But Psaki added that it is up to Schumer to decide what the next steps are for a bill that the party has in sharp terms presented as crucial to saving American democracy.

Biden “believes that it is right to change the rules to get the voting rights adopted and protect the fundamental rights of the people,” Psaki told reporters.

And Biden has not yet given up on changing the opinion of the two centrists. He is set to meet in the White House on Thursday night with both Manchin and Sinema, according to a White House official.

Schumer’s plan to vote on rule changes by Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday may be thrown by factors other than Manchin and Sinema’s strong opposition to changing the rules. Late. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) announced Thursday that he has tested positive for coronavirus and will quarantine, potentially leaving the party under all 50 votes needed to move forward with the legislation.

Still, many senators want to keep popping up. Late. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) Gave a passionate speech during Thursday’s meeting with Biden, in which he outlined recent GOP changes to the voting legislation – including in his state – and asked his colleagues to act. Late. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga), who is up for election this fall, said afterwards that despite his two colleagues’ opposition to changes in the rules, the “most important thing is to have the right to vote, period.”

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) Argued that the upper house already empowers the minority, as states like Wyoming have as many senators as California. And Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), The party’s most senior senator, asked why the caucus could not unite to weaken the filibuster.

Leahy said that over the last year of his four-decade-plus Senate career, he would do whatever it took to get those bills passed.

“We’re going to have a lot of drama when we get to vote,” said Merkley, who sat on the senate floor during Sinema’s speech. “Hope is going to last forever for me until it is subdued.”

Give a Comment