Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) has blasted Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Arizona) defense of the Senate filibuster, arguing that it leads to legislative inaction and fails to consider popular support for Democratic-backed legislation.
In an op-ed penned by Sinema published in The Washington Post on June 21, the Arizona Democrat claimed that eliminating the rule would result in legislative whiplash each time a different party comes to power.
“This question is less about the immediate results from any of these Democratic or Republican goals — it is the likelihood of repeated radical reversals in federal policy, cementing uncertainty, deepening divisions and further eroding Americans’ confidence in our government,” Sinema wrote.
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Ocasio-Cortez, speaking during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, rejected that line of thinking.
“It’s essentially an argument of saying, ‘Well, why do anything at all, in case something in the future may change it,'” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The New York congresswoman insisted that public support for Democratic-backed bills is strong enough to prevent Republicans from undoing legislation passed in a Senate without a filibuster.
“Democratic legislation, once enacted, is popular,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Republicans have tried to gut Social Security. They’ve tried to reverse the ACA [Affordable Care Act]. They’ve tried to claw back on legislation that has passed by simple majorities in the Senate, and they haven’t been able to because Democratic policies are popular, and once they are enacted, they are very politically difficult to undo.”
The progressive lawmaker also argued that it would be better to be able to pass legislation temporarily rather than not at all.
“Wouldn’t it be better to get people health care and voting rights for three years instead of zero years?” Ocasio-Cortez asked.
Ocasio-Cortez also pointed out that the logic of Sinema’s argument could justify a higher threshold for breaking a filibuster, which currently requires 60 votes to enact a cloture vote.
“Why 60 votes? Why not stop at 70 votes? Why not need 80 votes to pass any legislation?” Ocasio-Cortez said. “Why defend a 60-vote filibuster when the Senate already amplifies a minority power so that the 50 Democratic senators already represent millions and millions and millions more Americans than 50 Republican senators?”
The Senate filibuster currently threatens the status of a number of Democratic bills, including the Biden administration’s infrastructure package, as well as the For the People Act, a voting rights bill that is supported by a majority of voters in the U.S.
The White House has not formally called for any changes to the filibuster, but has warned that the failure to pass the For the People Act, or a compromised version of it, would likely “prompt a new conversation about the path forward” about the Senate rule within the administration, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last week.