The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: 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.

Sinema Stabs Biden -- And Her Own Party -- In The Back In Floor Speech

Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave a floor speech in the Senate Thursday that has been unequaled in cringeworthiness since Sen. Susan Collins stood there and told the nation that she was going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because he deeply revered precedent, especially when it came to abortion rights. We all know how that turned out.

Sinema’s floor remarks were a stab in the back to President Joe Biden (and all her Democratic colleagues) moments before Biden was scheduled to meet with her. She insisted that she really does support the Freedom to Vote and John Lewis Voting Rights bills, but that they “treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the diseases and while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division affecting our country.” Meaning she would not help Republicans break the filibuster in order to pass these bills she supports. Because both sides. Literally. She both-sides-ed Jan. 6 and the Big Lie. She doubled down on that, literally blaming Democratic leadership for not working harder to get Republicans to work with them.

“I wish there had been a more serious effort on the part of Democratic Party lines to sit down with the other party and genuinely discuss how to reforge common ground on these issues,” she said. Never mind that the Freedom to Vote Act was entirely rewritten by Joe Manchin to get Republicans on board and every single one of them refused. And when Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tried to bring the bill to the floor, Republicans filibustered the motion to proceed to it—they didn’t even allow the Senate to debate it.

She might as well have announced her defection to the Republicans in that speech, because in practicality that’s what she did. She’s supporting Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s veto of these bills and everything else in Biden’s legislative agenda, essentially. She’s trying to call it principle about the sanctity of the filibuster, but she had no problem voting just last month to break the filibuster to raise the debt ceiling. Which makes her pretty much a Republican. She’s got the lying and the trolling down pat.

Really, what Gabe Ortiz tweeted:

This, plus Thursday’s announcement by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) that he has COVID and the absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to an undisclosed illness means that the plan to expedite the voting rights bills on the Senate floor will have to be delayed, at the least. Schumer can still force a debate on the bills through the procedure Democrats crafted, but it can’t succeed.

All that said, we need a palate cleanser after Sinema. Here is Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego speaking on the House floor immediately following Sinema’s Senate speech.

On January 6 we witnessed a violent coup attempt in our Capitol fueled by the Big Lie. Our country continues to face a slow-moving coup in the form of voter suppression. I’ve seen first hand in my home state of Arizona voter suppression laws targeting people of color and a state senate that would rather waste taxpayer money on a sham audit instead of upholding our most sacred democratic right, the right to vote.The Freedom to Vote/John Lewis Voting Rights Act is critical to protecting the vote in my state and states across the country where restrictive laws are being put into place to strip people of the right to vote. Arizona will stand strong together this weekend. Thousands will gather this Saturday in Phoenix for democracy and voting rights. Passing this bill today answers their call by guaranteeing access to democracy to every Arizonan.
Today, the House showed where it stands. We won’t shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It’s past time for the U.S Senate, and Senator Sinema to do the same.

Thank you, Gallego. That kind of honesty and clarity is what Arizona—not to mention the nation—needs from its elected officials.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

BREAKING: Poll Shows Americans Support Biden On Protecting Voting Rights

President Biden followed up his rousing and robust speech denouncing former President Trump's involvement in the January 6th insurrection with an even more full-throated speech in Atlanta on the importance of voting rights. He explained in full why Democrats must do everything to protect them, including gutting the Jim Crow-era filibuster rule.

The president took thinly veiled shots at Republicans and the two so-called "moderate" Democrats -- Senator Jooe Manchin (D-WV) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) -- in his fiery speech delivered on Tuesday in Georgia, a state he shockingly won in 2020.

"Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace?” he declared, prompting some gasps from supporters in the audience. “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?”

Disgustingly enough, Republicans had the audacity to call out President Biden for a lack of civility while they not only continue to support a man who turned the presidency into a pro wrestling match but also nearly destroyed our republic. Somehow think wanting to ensure that minorities are not disenfranchised somehow manifests incivility.

But none of their pointless partisan attacks matter when considering that a majority of Americans are fully behind the President on voting rights.

According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, voting rights have broad American support, including even among Republican voters. Here's how the poll breaks down:

  • Expanding access to early voting: 65% support, 23% oppose
  • Prohibiting partisan gerrymandering: 64% support, 19% oppose
  • Making it illegal to prevent someone from registering to vote: 62% support, 24% oppose
  • Making Election Day a federal holiday: 61% support, 26% oppose
  • Expanding same-day voter registration: 56% support, 30% oppose
  • Expanding access to voting by mail: 55% support, 35% oppose
  • Allowing Americans with prior criminal convictions to vote: 54% support, 32% oppose
  • Expanding automatic voter registration: 51% support, 33% oppose

But standing in the way of this broad-based support is some irrelevant thing known as the filibuster -- which stands in the way of Democrats getting anything done that actually helps the American people, rather than big political donors and coal barons. Now one might think an arcane Senate rule would have no impact on the American people. The Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 40 percent of Americans believe bills should be able to pass with 51 votes, whereas 41 percent think it should take 60. That's a remarkable look at just how undemocratic the filibuster is and why it needs to go, and why Manchin and Sinema need to stop pumping the bizarre myth that Americans somehow love and cherish this tool of obstruction.


Schumer Gives Sternest Warning On Democracy Yet To Manchin And Sinema

Between January 1 and December 7,” an end-of-year analysis by the Brennan Center says, “at least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting.” The emphasis is in the original because it needs to be emphasized. There were 440 bills introduced in 49 states last year to restrict voting, at least 88 of which will carry on into 2022 legislative sessions. Ominously, the Brennan Center identifies a “new trend” in 2021: “legislators introduced bills to allow partisan actors to interfere with election processes or even reject election results entirely.”

This is an “alarming and unprecedented attack on our democracy,” as the Brennan Center says, and that it followed a violent, physical attack on our democracy at the Capitol on January 6 is even more alarming. Hundreds of Republican lawmakers around the country watched what happened on January 6 and instead of rejecting the assault in horror, they decided they had to figure out how to legalize it, codify it. All 50 of the U.S. Senate Republicans are tacitly approving that response, even though they were among the literal targets of the January 6 rioters. Just one, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, has signaled a willingness to possibly consider congressional action to preserve democracy.

Those 50 Republicans can stick together under the cover of two Democratic senators: Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia's Joe Manchin. Traditional media is almost entirely ignoring the fact that those 50 Republican senators are subverting democracy by refusing to protect it—including the eight who voted to overturn election results after the attack, after their lives were endangered by the mob Trump sicced on them. They’re let off the hook because Sinema and Manchin, for whatever reasons of their own, have been using their 15 minutes of fame to do so.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is calling an end to all that, and soon. “Over the coming weeks, the Senate will once again consider how to perfect this union and confront the historic challenges facing our democracy,” he told his colleagues in a letter Monday. “We hope our Republican colleagues change course and work with us. But if they do not, the Senate will debate and consider changes to Senate rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to protect the foundation of our democracy: free and fair elections.”

On the floor Tuesday, he reiterated that, framing the question in the anniversary of the January 6 attacks and the efforts by Republicans in the states to undermine the sanctity of our elections.

“If Republicans continue to hijack the rules of the chamber to prevent action on something as critical as protecting our democracy,” Schumer continued, “then the Senate will debate and consider changes to the rules on or before January 17, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

A number of Democratic senators including Virginia’s Tim Kaine, Montana’s Jon Tester, and independent Angus King from Maine have been working on Manchin for weeks, including over the Christmas break. Those talks are still continuing, though it’s not clear they’re making any dent.

Manchin told reporters Tuesday morning that he’s having “good conversations” and does recognize “the need for us to protect democracy as we know it.” They’ve gotten that far at least. He said, “I’m talking, I’m not agreeing to any of this,” by which he meant the various possibilities for filibuster reform. He wants bipartisan support for it, saying it’s his “absolute preference.” Which is moving the goal post out of the solar system. Even he has to be cognizant of that fact.

Manchin is also remaining willfully ignorant of the facts on Senate rules. “Once you change rules or have a carve out—I’ve always said this: Anytime there’s a carve out, you eat the whole turkey because it comes back. So you want things that’ll be sustainable.” The Senate just last month created a one-time carve-out in the ridiculously convoluted process they followed to raise the debt ceiling. There have been at least 161 exceptions to the filibuster created since 1969, and the Senate is still in business. Massively dysfunctional, yes, but still standing.

Sinema, as usual, isn’t talking right now. Whether that means she’s not engaging with her colleagues on the issue, whether they’re even trying to engage with her, isn’t clear. Through a spokesperson, she reiterated her opposition to changing the filibuster even though she says she is supportive of both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There seems to be a general sense among Democrats that Manchin is who they need to get, and that Sinema won’t want to stand alone in opposition.

We’ll find out in the next few weeks.

Article reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

McConnell Proves That ‘Bipartisan’ Filibuster Is A Fraud

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

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.

Read Now Show less

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."

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?