39 Democrat Senators Demanding Change to Filibuster Previously Supported It
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
By Charlie McCarthy | Friday, 18 June 2021 08:53 PM
A switch in Senate control has apparently changed how 39 members feel about the legislative filibuster.
The Washington Post reported Friday that 39 Democrat senators who defended the filibuster when Republicans held the chamber’s majority have now taken a different stance.
No fewer than 45 senators have called for changing or eliminating the filibuster in the past year, according to the Post, with 17 demanding its elimination.
The filibuster requires 60 votes to end debate in the Senate — a difficult total to achieve in an upper chamber currently split evenly along party lines.
With the August recess fast approaching, Republicans have threatened to use the filibuster to thwart Democrats' attempts to pass progressive legislation.
Senators who have called for eliminating the filibuster after previously supporting it include Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn, Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Ben Cardin, D-Md., Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Edward Markey, D-Mass., Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
In 2017, Senate Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees after Democrats had eliminated it for most other non-Supreme Court nominees.
More than two dozen Senate Democrats signed a letter asking then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and then-Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to preserve the filibuster.
The Post said Schumer himself called for building a "firewall" around the legislative filibuster.
"Without the 60-vote threshold for legislation, the Senate becomes a majoritarian institution like the House, much more subject to the winds of short-term electoral change," Schumer said on the Senate floor in 2017. "No senator would like to see this happen, so let’s find a way to further protect the 60-vote rule for legislation."
Now majority leader, Schumer is among the senators who have changed their tunes. He said "everything’s on the table" when asked in May about the filibuster.
Progressive Sanders told CBS News he was "not crazy about getting rid of the filibuster" when he announced his presidential bid in 2019. Sanders, though, is calling for its elimination these days.
Then-Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in 2018 said eliminating the filibuster "would be the end of the Senate as it was originally devised and created going back to our Founding Fathers," the Post said. He’s now saying the filibuster should be changed.
"Today, nearly 65 years after [former Sen.] Strom Thurmond’s marathon defense of Jim Crow, the filibuster is still making a mockery of American democracy," Durbin said on March 15, according to the Post. "Today’s filibusters have turned the world’s most deliberative body into one of the world’s most ineffectual bodies."
In 2014, 2 days after Republicans regained control of the Senate, Sens. Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told MSNBC they would use every "tactic" and "tool" available to them — including the filibuster — to prevent Republicans from repealing Obamacare.
Blumenthal recently called for eliminating the filibuster, and Murphy has said he was open to altering it.
Moderate Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., have said they do not believe the filibuster should be eliminated.