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Tag: filibuster

Former Senate Leader Reid Urges Democrats To Abolish Filibuster Forver

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Although some centrist Democrats have been vigorously defending the filibuster — namely, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — many other Democrats have been expressing their frustration with it. One of them is former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. In an op-ed published by the Las Vegas Sun this week, the Nevada Democrat lays out some reasons why he would like to see Senate Democrats "abolish the filibuster once and for all."

The 81-year-old Reid explains, "An arcane Senate rule, the filibuster imposes a 60-vote threshold on the majority of legislation, and it allows just one senator of the minority party to effectively block any and all progress by simply sending an e-mail indicating their opposition to a bill. Our Framers envisioned the Senate as a deliberative body where the issues of the day could receive thoughtful consideration, and where a simple majority was needed to conduct most business. What we have today is a gridlocked body where there's more obstruction than debate."

Reid adds that as the Framers saw it, "debate was to be encouraged in the Senate." But in 1917, Reid notes, the "filibuster rule as we know it today was introduced" as a "means of cutting off extended and tedious debate."

"Just as he did in the Obama years when I served as majority leader, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has exploited and weaponized the filibuster, turning it into a tool to stifle President Joe Biden's legislative priorities — a platform that won him the White House by more than seven million votes," Reid laments. "The filibuster has become an anti-democratic weapon wielded by the minority to silence the will of the people."

Whether a Democratic bill is addressing climate change, voting rights or reproductive rights, Reid argues, the filibuster is getting in the way of Biden's agenda.

"Just as he did in President Obama's first term with nominations, Mitch McConnell and his fellow far-right Republicans are again making clear that they will stop at nothing to steamroll Democratic priorities — even when it means grinding the Senate's proceedings to a halt," Reid writes. "The sanctity of the Senate is not the filibuster. The sanctity of the Senate — in government as a whole — is the power it holds to better the lives of and protect the rights of the American people. We need to get the Senate working again. It's time Senate Democrats act with the urgency that this moment demands and abolish the filibuster once and for all."

Top Sinema Backer Blasts Her 'Preposterous'  Defense Of Filibuster

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is facing a serious ultimatum from one of her biggest home state supporters. According to HuffPost, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods has now reached his breaking point with Sinema's stance on the filibuster.

Woods, a former Republican who worked on late Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) presidential campaign but switched to the Democratic Party in 2018, endorsed Sinema during her election campaign in 2018. Now, he appears to be concerned about the decision he made to do so.

On Friday, June 4, Woods sounded off as he shared his concerns about Sinema's unwavering support of the filibuster.

"I do think that Sen. Sinema and every senator should support ending the filibuster for the voting rights bill," he said, adding, "To keep the Jim Crow filibuster while losing some of these basic voting rights that are central to our democracy is preposterous."

"Sen. Sinema should know that, so should Sen. Manchin," Woods said, referring to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has also been quite vocal about his opposition toward the filibuster's removal. "At the end of the day, I'm very hopeful that they'll come around and do the right thing. But if they don't, then I don't think they belong in the Senate anymore."

Despite the ultimatum, heightened intra-party resistance, and criticism, Sinema has made it clear that she supports the measure. In a public statement released on Friday, the Arizona Democratic lawmaker doubled down on her belief as she works with Republican lawmakers' efforts to preserve the filibuster.

"It is a tool that protects the democracy of our nation," Sinema said Tuesday in Tucson, at an event with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). "Rather than allowing our country to ricochet wildly every two to four years back and forth between policies, the idea of the filibuster was created by those who came before to create comity and to encourage bipartisanship and work together."

Public Fury Explodes On Twitter After Republicans Reject Jan. 6 Commission

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Many Americans are furious after Senate Republicans Friday just after noon killed a bipartisan bill, already passed with a strong, bipartisan majority in the House, to establish a commission to investigate the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol building, a violent and deadly insurrection incited by then-President Donald Trump.

The vote was 54-35, with nine Republicans and two Democrats not showing up to vote. Six Republicans joined Democrats to vote in favor of the commission, but with the 60-vote filibuster threshold, the legislation failed.

Noted national security attorney Bradley Moss offered up a dire prediction:

Former Chief of Staff to CIA Director Michael Hayden. Larry Pfeiffer is a national security veteran of over three decades:

Michelangelo Signorile, SiriusXM host of the Signorile Show, summed up what many are saying:

Indeed, many have linked the future of the 60 vote filibuster, a relic of Jim Crow days, to today's immensely critical vote. Many believe Democrats have given Republicans every opportunity to govern and play fair, and feel they have failed that test.





Fallen Capitol Police Officer’s Mother Asks To Meet With GOP Senators On Commission

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The fate of the bipartisan plan for a commission investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is still up in the air, thanks to Republican opposition. With a Senate vote likely on Friday after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer filed cloture on it Tuesday and ten Republicans needed to break the filibuster, Gladys Sicknick, the mother of fallen Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, is asking every single Republican holding Senate office to meet with her Thursday ahead of the vote.

"Not having a January 6 Commission to look into exactly what occurred is a slap in the faces of all the officers who did their jobs that day," Sicknick said in a statement obtained by Politico. "I suggest that all Congressmen and Senators who are against this Bill visit my son's grave in Arlington National Cemetery and, while there, think about what their hurtful decisions will do to those officers who will be there for them going forward."

She added, "Putting politics aside, wouldn't they want to know the truth of what happened on January 6? If not, they do not deserve to have the jobs they were elected to do."

The thing is, Republicans never put politics aside, and it's bad for their partisan interests for the public to know the truth of what happened. For that reason among others, she's right that they don't deserve to have the jobs they do.

That starts with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is opposed to an independent bipartisan investigation into what he called a "disgrace" and "terrorism," acknowledging that Donald Trump was "practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day." But what's more important to McConnell is that, as he told Republicans at a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, a commission could hurt Republicans in the 2022 elections. Truth does not enter in. It's just a question of what helps or hurts Republicans.

Republicans have repeatedly changed their arguments against a January 6 commission, which means it's not worth looking at any of those arguments in any detail at this point. Whatever they're saying at any given moment isn't true, and we know it isn't true, both because of how they keep moving the goalposts and because of what McConnell is saying in private. And because, exactly in line with what McConnell is saying in private, Republicans have very good reasons for wanting to block an investigation into something that will make not just Donald Trump but the entire Republican Party look very, very bad.

The commission needs ten Republican votes in the Senate, and it's not looking likely to get them. So far, just two Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, have said they support a commission, while Sen. Susan Collins is claiming to support the idea of one, using that claim to try to water down a bill that already represents a massive compromise by Democrats even as she lays the groundwork to vote no.

There's no guarantee Republicans will even talk to Gladys Sicknick. When D.C. Metro Police officer Michael Fanone asked to meet with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to talk about his experience fighting the Capitol insurrection and show McCarthy his body camera footage, he was rejected. In fact, McCarthy's staff hung up on him. Will the mother of a fallen officer get a more welcoming reception from Republicans than a traumatized and injured officer did?

McConnell Sends Collins To Kill Jan. 6 Commission — With 'Bipartisan' Lies

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will fast-tracklegislation to establish a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrectionist attack on the Capitol, the bill passed in the House last week with a surprising 35 Republican votes. Schumer plans to bypass sending the bill to committee, bringing it directly to the floor in the coming weeks, where it will almost certainly be filibustered, because while as many as 15 Republicans are ostensibly considering supporting it, the reality is they are playing their usual games.

Which is Sen. Susan Collins' cue. "I strongly support the creation of an independent commission," Collins said Sunday on ABC's This Week. "I believe there are many unanswered questions about the attacks on the Capitol on Jan. 6." Except she just has a few conditions, because of course she does. She says that the bill has to say that the commission's work must be done by the end of the year. Which means that Collins hasn't read the bill because right there on page 17 of the bill, Section 10 (b) it says in black and white "Not later than December 31, 2021, the Commission shall submit to the President and Congress a final report containing such findings, conclusions, and recommendations for corrective measures has have been agreed to by a majority of Commission members."

Not. Later. Than. December. 31. 2021.

There's a 60-day window after the final report is due on the final day of 2021 for wrap-up work "including providing testimony to committees of Congress concerning its reports and disseminating the final report." If that's the part Collins has a problem with, then clearly Collins has no intention of learning anything from the commission, since it's that final testimony to Congress that would be curtailed should this provision be struck. She says she wants this commission but clearly she doesn't want its end product to be shown to the public.

Collins also insists that the commission's staffing is bipartisan, a myth Republicans seized upon that the chair of the committee—appointed by Democrats—would have control over the staffing. The Republican member of Congress who co-wrote this legislation, Rep. John Katko of New York, debunked that one in the floor debate. "There is an equal number of members on both sides, appointed by both sides, they have equal subpoena power—they can't subpoena one person without the other person on the other side of the aisle agreeing, they have to hire a staff together, all those things," he said. "We did this for a reason, because that's exactly what made the 9/11 commission successful."

Speaking of the 9/11 commission, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, the bipartisan leaders of it, have given their blessing to this legislation. "As Chairman and Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission, unity of purpose was key to the effectiveness of the group. We put country above party, without bias, the events before, during and after the attack. We sought to understand our vulnerabilities in order to prevent future attacks or future acts of terrorism," they wrote in a joint statement endorsing the bill.

"The January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was one of the darkest days in the history of our country," they continued. "Americans deserve an objective and an accurate account of what happened. As we did in the wake of September 11, it's time to set aside partisan politics and come together as Americans in common pursuit of truth and justice."

And once again cue Collins, who is playing her usual very partisan game here, carrying Mitch McConnell's water under the guise of pretending to be reasonable and bipartisan. In reality, the commission is as bipartisan as it can get. Everything Katko said on the floor is true; he was representing Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy in the negotiations on the bill and got pretty much everything McCarthy asked for, only to have McCarthy and McConnell trash it.

If Collins is being trotted out by McConnell to cast doubt on the bill as it stands, you can be pretty sure there are only two Republican senators who are actually thinking about joining Democrats on this—Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney—and passing the bill. Collins is going to keep her finger to the wind and ultimately, after expressing her anguish to anyone who will listen, will reject it as not bipartisan enough. Because when it comes right down to it, she's a Republican. Republicans made Jan. 6 happen, with a lot of help from the Collinses of the party.

The only way this commission happens is with Democrats. That means Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have to finally get beyond thoughts and prayersfor the Senate to come together, and stand up for their country. They're going to have to abandon the filibuster.

Fearful Senate Republicans Will Filibuster To Stop Capitol Riot Commission

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

The odds that the Senate will pass a bipartisan commission to study the origins of the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol are growing increasingly slim, as Senate Republicans are coming out one by one to say they do not support the probe.

Even Republicans who voted to convict Donald Trump for inciting the violent insurrection say they do not support the commission, twisting themselves in pretzels to justify their decision.

And that makes it increasingly likely that the commission will be the first thing Republicans filibuster during President Joe Biden's tenure. Current filibuster rules say that legislation in the Senate must garner 60 votes in order to proceed. Given that the Senate is split 50-50 along partisan lines, that means Democrats need 10 GOP votes to pass bills.

"I don't think there will be 10 votes on our side for it," Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), told Politico. "At this stage, I'd be surprised if you're gonna get even a handful."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he will bring the commission up for a vote, whether or not it has enough GOP support to avoid a filibuster — meaning that if 10 Republicans do not vote in favor of the commission, it will be officially blocked.

"Senate Republicans can show everyone if they want to pursue the truth about January 6th or just want to cover up for Donald Trump and insurrectionists," Schumer tweeted on Thursday. "I will bring the House-passed legislation for the January 6th Commission to the Senate floor for a vote."

Republicans who have come out against the commission have falsely claimed it's not bipartisan and will be used as a witch hunt by Democrats.

"The current commission proposed by Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats appears to be a platform to score partisan political points," Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) said in a statement about why he opposes the commission.

The framework of the commission, however, was brokered by the Democratic chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and the GOP ranking member on that same body.

The members of the commission would be equally appointed by Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, according to the agreement. And any subpoenas would require a majority vote, meaning there would need to be buy-in from the GOP-appointed members.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who came out against the commission on Wednesday, said the arrests by federal law enforcement are sufficient, even though the arrests will not lead to a comprehensive report about what went wrong and how to prevent future attacks like the Jan. 6 insurrection again. That's something a commission would explicitly do.

Even Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), one of the seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump of inciting the insurrection, came out against the commission.

Burr told Politico that part of his opposition to the commission is that it would drag into the midterm elections.

Multiple GOP lawmakers have said that they believe the commission could hamper Republican chances of taking back the House and Senate in November 2022, with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) saying that a probe could uncover that some Republican lawmakers played a role in the attack.

"I want our midterm message to be on the kinds of things that the American people are dealing with: That's jobs and wages and the economy and national security, safe streets and strong borders — not relitigating the 2020 elections," Sen. John Thune (R-SD) told CNN.

Republicans filibustering a bipartisan commission to probe a deadly attack on democracy gives progressive Democrats who have been railing against the arcane Senate procedure more fuel to their argument that the filibuster must go.

"Filibustering a bipartisan Commission regarding the January 6 insurrection is a three dimensional way to make the point that the filibuster is primarily a destructive force in American politics," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) tweeted.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

House Democrats: You Can’t Preserve The Filibuster And Protect Voting Rights

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is concerned about the lack of movement of any kind in the Senate on H.R. 1, the sweeping elections reform bill. They're preparing a more narrow strategy in hopes of getting quick action: sending the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to President Joe Biden's desk by September. They believe a bill named for their colleague and hero, the late John Lewis, has a better chance with a Senate that is deadlocked 50-50 and is being held hostage by Mitch McConnell, with the help of Democrats Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

The urgency is real. States are starting the process of congressional redistricting, and without a law which restores the key sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gutted by the Supreme Court, there will be no curb on states drawing discriminatory districts. The Supreme Court struck down the VRA's pre-clearance formula in 2013, a requirement that certain states and localities with histories of racially discriminatory voting practices—including drawing of electoral maps—had to get pre-approval from the U.S. Department of Justice to make changes to the voting process.

"If you want to play into [Republican] hands, you do nothing at all and let them pass redistricting maps that absolutely don't have to be pre-cleared where they can do whatever the hell they please, and they can discriminate at will. Or, you step up your game and you do what needs to be done," said Rep. Marc Veasey, a Texas Democrat, of the effort to get this bill passed. "If you don't pass" this voting rights bill, he said, "you're basically giving them a green light to just go ahead and discriminate against Black and Hispanic voters."

"I certainly think our focus ought to be on [the Lewis bill] and voting rights," said Rep. Anthony Brown of Maryland, a member of the CBC. "You would think that that would provide a real good opportunity for a handful of Democratic senators who want to hold onto the filibuster [to say] 'Yes, we can do it on this John Lewis Voting Rights [Act].'"

You would think that, and this could be the bill that puts the necessary pressure on the filibuster holdouts in the Democratic conference in the Senate—for their own job security, if nothing else. As of March 24, 361 state bills to restrict voting have been introduced in 47 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, which has been keeping track. They are not slowing down, either. "That's 108 more than the 253 restrictive bills tallied as of February 19, 2021—a 43 percent increase in little more than a month. Forty-seven states is almost all of them, including the ones that have Democratic senators. Their majority in the Senate only exists because of Vice President Kamala Harris. It could be gone very easily in January 2023 if states have free rein on keeping Democratic voters out of voting booths.

The House Judiciary Committee is responding, with its Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties holding a hearing Thursday to discuss the need to restore the VRA. "Congress cannot continue to let these challenges to the VRA go unanswered," Judiciary chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler said during the hearing. Nadler isn't a member of the subcommittee; he crashed the hearing, perhaps in order to emphasize how serious he is about moving this legislation forward. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro testified Thursday.

"In my home state of Texas today there is an all-out assault on the right to vote. For generations,
Texas has been a testing ground for devious ways to restrict access to the polls," Castro said. "Since the Shelby decision in 2013, the state has cut more polling locations than any state in the nation. Texas enacted a strict voter ID law that permits firearm licenses to be used to vote, but prohibits the use of student IDs. And lawmakers have used things like voter registration deadlines, restricted voting hours, and limitations on early voting to chip away at the franchise of millions of people."

He reminded the committee that "Congress knew in each of the four times they reauthorized the VRA that we must protect the rights of voters and reaffirm the American principle of anti-discrimination." Since 2013, however, Senate Republicans have prevented restoration of the VRA, looking ahead to this moment—the 2020 census and their chance to gerrymander Democrats out of power and suppress enough Democratic voters in perpetuity to have a permanent stranglehold on government. It's why they packed the courts with Trump judges.

Castro had a message for lawmakers in his testimony, directed particularly at those in the Senate who put their so-called principles about a bipartisan Senate over the "timeless truth" of our democratic system. "[T]his timeless truth: the right to vote shouldn't depend on the color of one's skin, how much money one has, or what state one lives in."

"It's a right guaranteed to every eligible American citizen. It's the cornerstone of our democracy. And it's what the late Representative John Lewis—for whom the new Voting Rights Act is named—described in his final letter as 'the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society.'"

Spooked McConnell Threatens ‘Scorched Earth’ To Protect Filibuster

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

As momentum grows to eliminate a tool Republicans have used over the years to kill overwhelmingly popular legislation, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday threatened to make the Senate into an unbearably slow and hostile work environment as retribution.

"Nobody serving in this chamber can even begin, can even begin to imagine what a completely scorched-earth Senate would look like," the Kentucky senator declared in a speech on the Senate floor, referring to what he'd do if Democrats repealed the filibuster, the extended debating tactic that makes it possible for the chamber's minority to block legislation. Invocation of cloture, a move to limit the debate, requires a total of 60 votes to be adopted.

McConnell said he'd require a quorum to be present to conduct even mundane business. That would slow down work in the Senate because it would pull lawmakers from committee hearings and take away time senators have to meet with constituents in their offices in Washington, D.C.

It's a similar tactic to that used by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) in recent weeks, as she forced the House of Representatives to reject motions to adjourn ahead of planned votes on landmark bills such as the COVID-19 relief bill; the pro-LGBTQ Equality Act; and H.R. 1, a government reform bill that would make it easier to vote.

Greene's tactics are angering her own GOP colleagues, who were forced to leave constituent meetings and hearings in order to vote on her procedural motions.

McConnell said that if the filibuster is eliminated, Republicans would respond by repealing bills Democrats passed and then pushing through conservative legislation without any Democratic input if the GOP wins back control of the chamber.

"We wouldn't just erase every liberal change that hurt the country. We'd strengthen America with all kinds of conservative policies with zero — zero — input from the other side," McConnell said.

McConnell said Republicans would defund Planned Parenthood, a move that 75 percent of Americans oppose, and loosen gun laws, which 60 percent of Americans oppose.

This is not the first time McConnell has threatened to terrorize the Senate if the filibuster is repealed. He kept Democrats from taking their positions as the majority party in the Senate in January to demand the filibuster be kept in place, finally giving up the skirmish — but not before delaying Democrats from assuming the majority they rightfully won for a week.

McConnell reiterated his threats on Tuesday, as Democrats signaled an openness to making it harder for Republicans to use the filibuster to block any and all legislation.

On Monday, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that the filibuster has a "death grip on American democracy": "Senators don't even have to stand for one minute to shut down the Senate. All they have to do is to threaten it. ... 'Mr. Smith Phones It In' — that wouldn't have been much of a movie, would it?"

Durbin said he wants senators to be required to stand and speak on the Senate floor indefinitely in order to block a piece of legislation: "If a senator insists on blocking the will of the Senate, he should at least pay the minimal price of being present. No more phoning it in. ... If the Senate retains the filibuster, we must change the rules so that any senator who wants to bring the government to a standstill endures at least some discomfort in the process."

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), who has said he doesn't support eliminating the filibuster, says he is open to implementing the "talking" filibuster.

"People have to make sure that they're willing to show — it'd be great, don't you think, if someone was down there telling you why they're objecting?" Manchin told Fox News last week.

McConnell, for his part, wants to use the filibuster to block passage of H.R. 1. Known as the For the People Act of 2021, the bill would make it easier to register to vote, allow anyone who wants to vote absentee to do so, limit the implementation of voter ID laws, and block voter roll purges.

Despite making threats to gum up the Senate and pass conservative policies that majorities of voters oppose, McConnell himself was quick to get rid of the filibuster in 2017 in order to confirm Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominees.

McConnell also took advantage of the fact that the filibuster doesn't apply to other judicial nominees to confirm a spate of Trump's right-wing judges to vacancies he had held open during Barack Obama's presidency.

McConnell also got around the filibuster under Trump in 2017 to pass the GOP tax cut bill, which overwhelmingly benefited the rich and added to the deficit, without measurably benefitting the economy.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.