Sen. Sinema: Change Senators’ Behavior Instead of Axing Filibuster

April 6, 2021 Updated: April 6, 2021

One of the few Senate Democrats against eliminating the filibuster said this week that she feels lawmakers should change their behavior instead of changing the body’s rules.

“When you have a place that’s broken and not working, and many would say that’s the Senate today, I don’t think the solution is to erode the rules,” Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) told The Wall Street Journal.

“I think the solution is for senators to change their behavior and begin to work together, which is what the country wants us to do,” she added.

Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have publicly voiced opposition to axing the filibuster, which would enable a party to pass legislation with a simple majority.

Under current rules, 60 votes in the 100-member chamber are needed to end debate on a piece of legislation and bring it to a vote. Democrats have been frustrated with the general refusal from Republicans to back bills that the GOP has painted as extreme. Democrats were forced to use a budget process to ram President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package through the 50-50 Senate last month, and are poised to do so again for the president’s $2 trillion infrastructure proposal.

Biden recently called the filibuster a “Jim Crow relic,” or a rule that dated back to an era where racism was pervasive in American society, claiming the threshold is “being abused in a gigantic way” by Republicans to stymie Democrat efforts to pass a wide range of bills.

“The president understands, as I do, that the maintenance and integrity of our democracy is much more important than any Senate rule. And in a real sense, the Republicans have created this crisis by their scorched-earth approach to winning power by any means, including silencing voices of voters,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) told reporters on Capitol Hill late last month.

But Sinema and Manchin, as well as virtually all GOP senators, have challenged that view.

The Senate is “the most deliberative body in the world,” Manchin told reporters in Washington.

“Why do we have two senators for every state, no matter how large or small? That should you give you the thought process of our founding fathers. This is designed to be something different. That means the big guy doesn’t pick on the little guy. I’ve been in the minority. I’ve been in the majority. So that’s all I’m trying to protect, is basically civility, but making it work,” he added.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor last month that “nobody serving in this chamber can even begin—can even begin to imagine—what a completely scorched earth Senate would look like,” describing partisan gridlock during recent administrations as “child’s play” compared to what would happen.

While Manchin has signaled a willingness to alter the filibuster while not eliminating it entirely, Sinema told the Wall Street Journal that she did not want to talk about whether to change back to the so-called talking filibuster, which requires senators be on the Senate floor to block the passage of bills.

The Senate’s job is “to craft bipartisan solutions to solve the challenges we face in our country,” she said, adding that she has “a pretty good track record” on bringing both parties together to pass new bills.

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