Filibuster Debate Becomes Litmus Test in Senate Midterm Races Senate Appropriations Committee member Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., questions members of the Biden administration during a hearing in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on April 20, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By Brian Freeman | Monday, 03 May 2021 11:18 AM
The controversy over the filibuster is becoming a litmus test in the early stages of next year’s midterm elections, with the issue a possible dividing line in the battle for control of the Senate, The Washington Times reported on Monday.
The "abolish the filibuster" movement has gained momentum in recent years as members of both parties find it difficult to reach a consensus on their priorities, especially with the filibuster’s 60-vote threshold required to pass bills through the Senate.
Senate candidate Sarah Godlewski, a Democrat from Wisconsin, is a prime example of this trend, as she vowed "we can get rid of the filibuster, because that’s what it takes to get the job done" when she launched her campaign last month.
She added that "People say we can’t fix the Senate, but I don’t buy that."
Many Democrats and liberal activists are concerned that President Joe Biden’s agenda has no chance of becoming law unless bills in the Senate can pass with a simple majority vote.
Biden, however, has yet to endorse the idea and key centrist Democrat Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, oppose getting rid of it. So far, Biden has instead sidestepped GOP opposition through executive orders and budget reconciliation, which made possible the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act.
However, that fast-track procedure is allowed only on budget and spending bills, which means Democrats would require the backing of at least 10 Republicans in the Senate to pass some remaining agenda items, according to the Times. The Senate parliamentarian can rule many bill items fall within the budget, however, which is how Democrats reportedly hope to pass a massive infrastructure bill.
The filibuster is meant to ensure some minority rights and encourage compromise so that there can be bipartisan legislation.
But North Carolina’s Jeff Jackson, who is seeking a spot in the U.S. Senate, told Spectrum News that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell does not have an "incentive to actually deal with Democrats in a bipartisan way."
Jackson said that, instead, what McConnell is "going to do is run the same play he ran the last time as minority leader, which is to use the filibuster to just block everything," stressing that top Democratic priorities have no chance "if we let Mitch McConnell use the filibuster as a weapon to grind everything to a halt."
Monmouth University Polling Institute director Patrick Murray told the Times that surveys show that Democrats overwhelmingly support changes in or completely getting rid of the filibuster, meaning "You are not going to win over the party base in a competitive primary by supporting the status quo here."
He added that supporting the abolishment of the filibuster or making major changes to it is "not likely to come back to bite you in a general election … based on where public opinion stands right now," stressing that "Most independents either support changes to it or, even more likely, simply don’t care enough to make it a decisive factor in their vote."