A group of 97 House Democrats, including progressives and moderates, sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Thursday urging him to eliminate the Senate’s filibuster rules so the party can enact its agenda.
The letter was led by progressive Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and joined by fellow progressive Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and moderate Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colo.) and Sean Casten (D-Ill.).
In their request, the lawmakers acknowledge that a major feature of contemporary politics is the ideological sorting of the two political parties and the resulting lack of bipartisan cooperation to solve the nation’s problems.
“In today’s hyper-partisan climate, there is simply no avenue for bold legislation that meets the needs of everyday Americans without ending the filibuster,” the letter states.
“This is an existential moment for our country,” it continues. “We must end the gridlock that has become common practice in Washington and govern boldly and transformatively to improve the lives of millions of people, children, and families all across the country.”
House Democrats have passed a raft of legislation that faces the threat of death by Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. These bills include civil rights protections for transgender people, new background checks for gun purchases, the legalization of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as minors, expanded rights for labor union organizing, ending gender-based pay discrimination, the admission of Washington, D.C., as the 51st state, and a package of voting rights, campaign finance, redistricting and ethics reforms.
None of these bills can pass the Senate under current filibuster rules without receiving at least 10 votes from Republican senators to end debate and advance to a final vote. And, in most cases, these bills face near-universal opposition from the Senate Republican caucus.
Drew Angerer via Getty Images Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) speaks during a news conference to advocate for ending the Senate filibuster, outside the U.S. Capitol on April 22.
“We have sent bill after bill after bill to that side of the Capitol, to see it just sit on Mitch McConnell’s desk; to see it just jammed up by arcane Senate procedures while the people that we represent suffer,” Crow, a member of the centrist New Democrat Caucus, said while pointing to the Senate during a news conference on Thursday. “And we have had enough.”
“The people that I represent ― my constituents ― do not care about arcane Senate rules and procedures,” he added.
Crow wasn’t the only letter signer to argue that most voters care more about enacting legislation their elected representatives promised than protecting Senate procedures.
“No one across the country cares about a procedure,” said Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. If Democrats sacrifice the agenda they successfully campaigned on, she added, their constituents won’t vote for them again.
The filibuster’s defenders say it’s a tool to force compromise and bipartisanship, but Jayapal noted that it has done no such thing in recent years. Instead of forcing compromise, the filibuster for more than a decade has simply enabled a minority to blockade action on a range of issues.
“The reality is all the filibuster does is deliver to the minority the power that the majority should have,” Jayapal said.
Jayapal announced that members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and those in other ideologically oriented caucuses will host events in their districts on May 2 to bring attention to ending the filibuster. This will culminate in a national town hall to call for the end of the filibuster on May 6.
Almost all members of the Senate Democratic caucus support changing the filibuster in some way. Just three Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) and Pat Leahy (Vt.), remain opposed, although Leahy has not commented on the subject since 2019. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has not stated a position.
Schumer said in March that Senate Democratic leaders would wait to see how Republican senators respond to the For the People Act, which would expand voting rights among other things, before deciding “the appropriate action to take.” But he added: “Everything is on the table.”
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