The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer:
After a weeklong showdown between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, the Senate is now moving forward with a power-sharing agreement that neither eliminates the filibuster nor guarantees it will be kept in place. As the filibuster stands, passing most legislation will require a minimum of 60 votes, rather than a simple majority of 51, meaning that Democrats will have to acquire 10 Republican votes to pass legislation. At the end of the day, this is a win for Mitch McConnell.
Put simply, keeping the filibuster in place allows Republicans to have veto power on any and every piece of legislation on Democrats’ agenda, including a $15 minimum wage, relief checks, voting rights, immigration reform and climate solutions. McConnell’s prior demand to guarantee the filibuster’s permanent standing was a blatant attempt to doom Democratic campaign promises before they’ve had a chance to begin fulfilling them, and the threat is still there.
However, Senate Democrats aren’t powerless. At any time, they can choose to abolish the filibuster with a simple majority of all 51 Democrats by changing the rules of the Senate to eliminate it.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is one Democrat who stands in the way, and it’s a serious miscalculation.
Arizonans came together in 2018 and in 2020 to demand change by electing two Democratic senators for the first time in decades. Now, Democrats have the chance to pass legislation that will have a real impact on millions of lives before they go back to voters during the next election. Failure to abolish the filibuster will make this much more difficult, playing into the Republican narrative that Democrats do nothing for voters when in control.
In 2022, when voters determine whether to reelect Mark Kelly, there should be no question that flipping the state blue was the right choice for Arizonans. It won’t matter to voters if our Democratic senators fought to maintain the filibuster — they will reelect the politicians that respond to this dire moment and fight to make their lives better. Democrats can’t do that unless they abolish the filibuster.
The filibuster itself is not worth staking the Democrats’ campaign promises on either. The filibuster as we now know it was originally employed almost exclusively by segregationists to prevent civil-rights legislation. In the past decade, exploitation of the filibuster has dramatically increased, prompting more gridlock in D.C. — not more compromise.
McConnell has already demonstrated why the filibuster must go. He’s shown no reservations about blocking Democrats’ agenda in the past: his extraordinary filibustering of President Obama’s appointees led then-Majority Leader Harry Reid to exempt Cabinet appointees from the filibuster rule. Despite his current support of the filibuster, there’s clearly no reason to think that McConnell won’t eliminate the filibuster for his own benefit once back in the majority — something likely to happen sooner rather than later if Democrats don’t utilize their power now.
The choice to eliminate the filibuster should be an obvious one. For the first time in a decade, Democrats have control of the White House, and both chambers of Congress. They have the ability to address the many crises we face: the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme economic inequality, the climate crisis, police brutality, a broken immigration system, and threats to voting rights. Democrats can finally begin to proactively fight for a just and sustainable future for all of us.
Abigail Jackson is the federal communications coordinator with Progress Arizona, a progressive watchdog organization working to expose the powerful for their misdeeds and promote a vision of our state that works for everyone.