Democrats intend to test Republicans in the coming weeks by showcasing the need to end the Senate filibuster. They plan to put a number of popular legislative items up for a vote to see whether GOP lawmakers will simply obstruct every bill.
With several bills passing the House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has promised to put them up for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress. Doing so will likely set up a number of legislative battles, including the use of the filibuster by Republican lawmakers, which will require those bills to have at least 60 votes in the Senate — meaning, the support of at least 10 GOP senators — in order to pass.
Democrats plan to use Republican obstruction to their advantage to showcase the need for filibuster reform, or even possibly to remove the Senate rule altogether.
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Democrats in the Senate will likely put forward bills that every member of their caucus can get behind. If the bills get blocked, it could demonstrate (to the American public and legislators wary of reform alike) that the filibuster is being used by Republicans purely for political reasons. Democrats can then seize the opportunity to justify ending the archaic rule, or at least changing it in some way.
Democrats aren’t necessarily being coy with this strategy.
“What I’m saying to those who defend the filibuster is show me that the Senate can operate with a filibuster and still do things that make us a better nation,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) recently told his Republican colleagues on the Senate floor.
The plan probably won’t go into effect for quite a while, however, as the Senate is scheduled to go on a two-week recess starting on Thursday. Still, the idea of putting bills up for a vote and then forcing Republicans to decide what’s in their best interest regarding the filibuster demonstrates how Democrats are thinking strategically with regards to getting their agenda passed before the next midterm elections.
There will still be obstacles to reforming or removing the filibuster, primarily from two centrist Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who have voiced opposition to ending the rule. But there have been signs lately that even they may be open to changing the rule.
Manchin, for instance, has recently stated that he would be in favor of imposing rules on the filibuster that would force senators to actually stand on the floor of the Senate and speak. Such a “standing filibuster” has also received support from President Joe Biden, who has also expressed worries about doing away with the filibuster altogether.
However, Biden may also be shifting his position on the matter and leaning toward ending the filibuster altogether. According to reporting from Axios, Biden recently met with a number of historians at the White House, who told him that this moment in history was unique, and a time to go “big and fast” with his agenda — even if that meant removing the Senate rule.
Also, people close to Biden who spoke to Axios on the matter said that he is wanting to do more as president, and is prepared to support ending the filibuster if it means he and Democrats can pass multiple items from his legislative agenda into law.