The Senate Has Used the Filibuster to Block Civil Rights Payments for A long time. That’s One other Purpose for Dems to Ditch It. – Mom Jones

Yuri / Abaca Flu via ZUMA Press

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Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) Has two priorities as his party takes control of the Senate for the first time in six years. One of them is comprehensive legislation that addresses all facets of democracy reform, from gerrymandering to dark money to the suppression of voters. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.) called the bill one of the first likely to be adopted by the new Democratic majority.

In the way, however, stands the Senate filibuster, de facto increasing the number of votes required to pass laws in the Senate to 60 instead of a simple majority of 51. The filibuster enables the minority party to block laws, and that was primarily used to stop scrutiny of civil and voting laws. That changed a decade ago under Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), The top Senate Republican, when the filibuster was used for nearly all laws and “absolutely paralyzed this place,” Merkley says. And Merkley warns that McConnell, as the leader of the Senate minority, will certainly use it to impede democratic reform.

“I don’t think it’s acceptable for us to say,” We’re going to veto the fundamental rights of Americans by Mitch McConnell, “he says, hence another priority for Merkley: reforming the filibuster so that his bill is in the country Senate, changed and discussed by its colleagues from both parties and voted with a simple majority.

The end of the 60-vote filibuster has been Merkley’s hobbyhorse for some time. In 2012, he proposed a less radical move calling for the “talking filibuster” to be restored, which would force the debate to stall the legislation. His advance had been lonely for years. More than a dozen of his Democratic Senate colleagues signed a letter with Republicans promising “to uphold existing rules, practices and traditions in the Senate.” He has been meeting privately with colleagues since last summer to discuss possible filibuster reforms, and almost all of the remaining Democratic signatories have joined him. So did the former President Barack Obama, who Thelheaded the practice last summer in a laudation for the civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) as “Jim Crow relic”. Like President Joe Biden, Obama began his presidency with unified democratic control, but saw the minority party carry out its agenda on every occasion when he lost that filibuster-safe majority in 2010.

In this time frame, the Democrats want to achieve a lot. At the top of the list are Biden’s $ 1.9 coronavirus aid package and a subsequent package for jobs and infrastructure. But the party is already at war with itself on how to rule with such narrow majorities, particularly in the Senate where Vice President Kamala Harris gives the Democrats a one-vote head start. Biden, who has spent more than three decades in the Senate brokering bipartisan deals, has signaled that the parties prefer to work together to reach consensus. He told the New York Times last fall that he refused to overthrow the filibuster, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters last week that his position had “not changed.” Others have placed their hopes on the budget vote process, which will allow certain tax and spending-related laws to be passed by a simple majority of 51 votes.

But the Democratic Democratic Reform Act does not have a single Republican co-sponsor and is unlikely to be suitable for the reconciliation process. Democrats and activists who support Merkley’s push see only two options: “We see this as the choice between maintaining the filibuster and establishing our democracy,” says Leah Greenberg, co-founder of the progressive grassroots group Indivisible. “We need the democratic caucus to see it that way.”

On democracy reform issues, the filibuster’s protection allows Republicans to retain their political power by likely blocking Democratic voters. Hand over Merkley’s bill and the vote of the houseIng rights Bill, another top democratic priority, would protect the rights of the historically disenfranchised – especially black Americans. In state houses where Republicans remain in control, lawmakers are already busy drafting stricter electoral restrictions to dampen the chances of Democratic candidates in future elections. Merkley says his Republican colleagues told him McConnell banned GOP senators from supporting his bill.

This is why Merkley sees the ending of today’s filibuster and the democratic reforms proposed by his party as two sides of the same coin. “You have this incredibly racist history of voter suppression and systemic discrimination,” he says, “and you have the filibuster who is also deeply linked to systemic racism.” Passing these bills would “correct this shift in power towards predominantly white conservatives in our system”. adds Adam Jentleson, who served as an advisor to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. and recently published a book calling for filibuster reform. “Sequencing is important because there is nothing you can do but do filibuster reform.”

For Jentleson, the fate of the filibuster is also a question of political survival for the Democrats. From his seat in Reid’s office, he had a front row seat to see how McConnell had thwarted Obama’s agenda, then turned and accused the Democrats of inaction. The tactic cost the Democrats seats in both houses of Congress in those election cycles. According to Jentleson, there is a huge political risk of being “dragged along” by Republican lawmakers and then getting “small ball deals” that do not fulfill the country’s dire moment. “Bipartisanism is a worthy goal,” says Jentleson, “but the ultimate goal must be to deliver results in order to save this country.”

How do Merkley and his filibuster critics get through with their colleagues who are still opposing the filibuster reform? The way, Merkley says, is likely to get caught trying to get 60 votes on top agenda items and then watch the Republicans block them. If Biden’s coronavirus package fails, Merkley predicts, it will “move the hearts of the people” not to veto McConnell that “could kill tens of thousands or 100,000 or 100,000 people in this country.” The same applies to his party’s democracy reform law. “When it comes to an issue as fundamental as the right to vote and the Republicans are blocking it,” Merkley says, “I think that would also have a significant impact.”

These effects would have to be significant. Senator Joe Manchin (DW.V.), who told Hill last summer that he was intrigued by Merkley’s pitch on filibuster reform, remains opposed to ending the practice. This also applies to Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Whose spokesperson told the Washington Post this week that the Senator was not only “against the elimination of the filibuster” but also “unwilling to change her mind”. Filibuster reform optimists hope that moderate Democrats will face fewer extreme reforms than complete abolition. Senator Bernie Sanders has gained momentum during his presidential campaign: he is expanding the possibilities of budget voting by overriding the instructions of the Senate MP.

In the progressive notion, the abolition of the filibuster crosses a threshold towards more ambitious structural reforms. For the party’s left flank, the proposed bills for democracy and voting rights form the basis. Granting statehood to Washington, DC, abolishing the electoral college, increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court, and establishing a ranking electoral system would be necessary steps to rebalance the scales against the tyranny of minority rule. Legislation has been put in place to address every obstacle, but not all Democrats are making big strides on board. Sen. Cory Booker (DN.J.) recently announced to the Atlantic that even if the filibuster were abolished, the votes for statehood in DC or Puerto Rico would not be there (although the house passed statehood law last year for DC adopted). For now, the Democrats’ debate on the future of filibuster delays is delaying versus the divisions that remain in their caucus.

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