Mitch McConnell makes a mockery of Sinema and Manchin's defense of the filibuster
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be almost intentionally making a mockery of the small number of Democratic senators who continue to defend the filibuster.
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona have vocally opposed any effort to change the chamber's rules that require 60 votes to proceed on most legislation. Many Democratic lawmakers and advocates have called for the filibuster to be abolished, which would make it easier for the party to enact various pillars of its agenda.
The filibuster issue has once again come into focus because the debt ceiling. The American government is approaching the statutory limit on the amount of money it can borrow to fund the spending that Congress has already mandated, and if the limit is reached sometime later in the month, the country may go into default. The actual consequences of default are unknown because it has never happened before, but many analysts believe it would be economically calamitous and a devastating blow to the United States' financial standing.
Few people seriously think default is a good idea. But McConnell has taken the firm position that every Republican in the Senate will refuse to vote to raise the debt ceiling, and will in fact use the filibuster to prevent Democrats from doing so. His intention appears to be to force Democrats to use the budget reconciliation process in order to waste time and make their lives more difficult — even though the Democrats consistently voted with the GOP to raise the debt ceiling when Donald Trump was president. Democrats have refused to play along with McConnell's threats, setting up an extraordinarily high-stakes game of legislative chicken.
The Democrats do have another option to raise the debt limit. They could unilaterally change the filibuster rules to allow for the debt ceiling to be easily raised with just 51 votes. Manchin has already ruled this out, however, and Sinema likely agrees, since she's shown no sign of wavering from her previous stance.
The problem for them is that McConnell's hostage-taking exposes the central argument both Sinema and Manchin have made for keeping the filibuster as a fraud.
In separate op-eds, they have claimed that the 60-vote filibuster threshold encourages bipartisanship. Sinema wrote:
I understand bipartisanship seems outdated to many pundits. But the difficult work of collaboration is what we expect in Arizona. And I still believe it is the best way to identify realistic solutions — instead of escalating all-or-nothing political battles that result in no action, or in whipsawing federal policy reversals.
Since I was elected to Congress, a bipartisan approach has produced laws curbing suicide among our troops and veterans, boosting American manufacturing, delivering for Native American communities, combating hate crimes, and protecting public lands.
It's no secret that I oppose eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold. I held the same view during three terms in the U.S. House, and said the same after I was elected to the Senate in 2018. If anyone expected me to reverse my position because my party now controls the Senate, they should know that my approach to legislating in Congress is the same whether in the minority or majority.
Once in a majority, it is tempting to believe you will stay in the majority. But a Democratic Senate minority used the 60-vote threshold just last year to filibuster a police reform proposal and a covid-relief bill that many Democrats viewed as inadequate. Those filibusters were mounted not as attempts to block progress, but to force continued negotiations toward better solutions.
And Manchin wrote:
The filibuster is a critical tool to protecting that input and our democratic form of government. That is why I have said it before and will say it again to remove any shred of doubt: There is no circumstance in which I will vote to eliminate or weaken the filibuster. The time has come to end these political games, and to usher a new era of bipartisanship where we find common ground on the major policy debates facing our nation.
Many have already criticized these arguments, pointing out that the filibuster incentivizes inaction rather than compromise and that eliminating the 60-vote threshold might actually increase the amount of bipartisan legislation.
But the GOP's current use of the filibuster is the height of absurdity. It has nothing to do with bipartisanship. Even McConnell explicitly agrees that the debt ceiling must be raised. He is simply using the filibuster and the threat of economic disaster to force the Democrats to run through procedural hoops that will make it harder to achieve their policy agenda. It is exactly the kind of "political game" that Manchin said he wanted to end by keeping the filibuster.
It would be hard to invent a more clownish and ridiculous use of the filibuster if you tried. And it's entirely enabled by Sinema and Manchin's stubborn insistence that the filibuster is good for democracy.
On Tuesday night, President Biden told reporters that changing the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling is on the table, in his mind.
President Biden says there is a \u201creal possibility\u201d that Democrats invoke the \u201cnuclear option\u201d and change the filibuster rules to raise the debt limitpic.twitter.com/lBSYlWKm8P— JM Rieger (@JM Rieger) 1633475291
But even if most Senate Democrats agree, they need complete unanimity as a party for the plan to work. McConnell, for his part, doesn't seem to think Sinema or Manchin will be budging. As NBC News' Sahil Kapur reported on Tuesday, when McConnell was asked about the possibility of a change to the filibuster, he literally smiled.
McConnell cracks a smile when asked by @lindsaywise if he worries his position could give fuel to Democrats to change filibuster rules.\n\n"Look. The debt ceiling needs to be addressed. The only question is who should address it."\n\nHe says it should be Dems only via reconciliation.— Sahil Kapur (@Sahil Kapur) 1633461752
- Republicans demand the debt ceiling be raised — and promise to ... ›
- Mitch McConnell's budget gambit will blow up in the GOP's face ... ›
- 'What he wants is simply chaos': NYT report exposes Mitch ... ›
- Biden gives Democrats a green light to weaken the filibuster for debt ceiling votes - Alternet.org ›
- Biden just announced he would support killing the filibuster to get voting rights passed – 'and maybe more' - Alternet.org ›
- 'Disingenuous nonsense': McConnell mocked for 'plainly silly' case against voting rights bill - Alternet.org ›
- How Democrats can deal with problems from Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell in just one go - Alternet.org ›
- How Democrats can deal with Manchin and McConnell in one go - Alternet.org ›
- GOP offers taste of 2022 attack ads if Democrats approve tax cut for millionaires - Alternet.org ›
- Hope for voting rights? Manchin reportedly 'engaged' in filibuster reform discussions - Alternet.org ›
- Mitch McConnell and other GOPers urge Joe Manchin to switch parties - Alternet.org ›
- Columnist reveals why Mitch McConnell's plea to the Supreme Court betrays his own supposed principles - Alternet.org ›
- 60 groups to Senate Dems: Drop the filibuster to 'safeguard Our democracy' - Alternet.org ›
- McConnell openly admits his very real fear is American democracy actually working - Alternet.org ›
- 'It's a trap': Advocates warn against McConnell-backed election reform gambit - Alternet.org ›
- Here’s how Mitch McConnell could take control of the Senate before the midterm elections - Alternet.org ›
- ‘Lying on purpose?’: Experts slam Manchin for ‘Trumpian lie’ - Alternet.org ›
- Legal expert dismantles Manchin’s false claims about the filibuster 'tradition of the Senate' - Alternet.org ›
- Amid 'slow-motion coup,' Manchin and Sinema help GOP sink voting rights - Alternet.org ›
- 'McConnell is done': GOP leader leaves far-right in a frenzy after condemning RNC censure of Cheney and Kinzinger - Alternet.org ›
- McConnell stuns reporter after he can't name one crime that would nullify 'obligation' to vote for Trump - Alternet.org ›
- Journalist lays out a long list of reasons not to trust anything Mitch McConnell has to say - Alternet.org ›