Louisiana Democratic Senate candidate Adrian Perkins is in favor of abolishing the filibuster, giving extra momentum to the growing call to remove the 60-vote threshold required to pass legislation.
“The filibuster is not in our Constitution,” he told HuffPost in an interview. “It isn’t something that we should be anchored to. And we’ve seen the detriment of the filibuster, and we shouldn’t let a Senate procedural tool disrupt our government in the way that it has. So I am about abolishing.”
Perkins, 34, was elected the mayor of Shreveport in 2018. If he wins his race for the Senate, he would be the youngest member in the chamber. The grandson of a sharecropper, Perkins graduated from West Point and served three tours in the Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning the Bronze Star and the rank of captain. He later graduated from Harvard Law School.
Two other Democratic Senate challengers, Maine’s Sara Gideon and Montana’s Steve Bullock, have also said they want to see the filibuster gone. Besides Jamie Harrison in South Carolina, nearly every other Democratic Senate candidate is at least open to abolishing it.
In July, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had not committed to getting rid of the filibuster if Democrats take the majority, but he also refused to rule it out.
“Nothing’s off the table,” he said.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a longtime defender of the rule, said in July that “you have to just take a look at it” and it would “depend on how obstreperous they become,” referring to Senate Republicans.
But the biggest boost for eliminating the filibuster came recently from former President Barack Obama.
During the July 30 funeral for Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Obama said that getting rid of the procedural hurdle would be a fitting way to pay homage to the civil rights icon.
“You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law he was willing to die for,” Obama said. “Naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is a fine tribute, but John wouldn’t want us to stop there, just getting back to where we already were.”
“If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do,” he added.
Segregationist southern Democrats regularly used the filibuster in the first half of the 20th century to block civil rights and anti-lynching legislation.
Under Obama, Democrats removed the filibuster for most presidential nominees, and Republicans more recently abolished the 60-vote requirement for Supreme Court picks.
Democrats would need 51 votes to get rid of the filibuster.
Perkins immediately picked up the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee when he entered the race in late July, and if elected, he would be the first black senator from Louisiana. (There have been only 10 black senators ever.)
Perkins said he didn’t plan to run when the year started, but watching the federal response to the coronavirus spurred him to jump in.
“As I put my head down and I worked as hard as I could with my team around me, I realized that we couldn’t do it alone,” he said. “And I realized that the leadership in Washington, D.C., was absent. Our federal delegation was absent. And, you know, that was annoying enough. But then I looked even closer and realized that as this pandemic started to play itself out, they were being harmful.”
“They politicized a public health crisis. … That made the virus even more potent in our community when people didn’t want to wear a face mask and people didn’t want to adhere to the things that we were putting out to keep our community safe,” Perkins added.
Louisiana has an open election, meaning that Perkins and every other candidate, regardless of party, will be competing against Sen. Bill Cassidy (R) in November. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters will head to a runoff.
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