Sinema said Thursday that she would not vote to weaken the filibuster, bucking her party leaders and dealing a major blow to Democrats’ election reform.
President Biden’s drive to push new voting rights protections through Congress hit a major obstacle on Thursday when Senator Krysten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, declared that she would not support undermining the Senate filibuster to enact new laws under any circumstances.
The House of Representatives (HOR) passed a bill Thursday morning combining those original pieces of legislation: The John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. But it won’t get 60 votes in the Senate, which is split 50-50 into party lines.
Any changes to the filibuster would need all 50 Senate Democrats on board. With Sinema taking a hard stance in favor of the filibuster Thursday, it appears Democrats will not be able to get there.
Acting as part of a Democratic plan to expedite consideration of the bills in the Senate, the House approved the new measure on a party-line vote of 220 to 203 after a heated partisan debate in which lawmakers clashed over the state of election laws across the country.
Democrats said the legislation was urgently needed to offset efforts taking hold in Republican-led states to make it more difficult to vote after Democratic gains in the 2020 elections and former President Donald J. Trump’s false claim that the vote was stolen.
They argue that the flurry of new state laws is intended to reduce voting in minority communities, amounting to a contemporary version of the kinds of restrictions prevalent before enacting landmark civil rights laws in the 1960s.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema stated her opposition on Thursday, “There’s no need for me to restate my longstanding support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role in protecting our country from wild reversals of federal policy,” Sinema, D-Ariz., said. “This week’s harried discussions about Senate rules are but a poor substitute for what I believe could have and should have been a thoughtful public debate at any time over the past year.”
Sinema added, questioning what the legislative filibuster is other than a tool that requires new federal policy to be broadly supported by senators. Adding that, the senators “demand to eliminate this threshold from whichever party holds the fleeting majority amount to a group of people separated on two sides of a canyon, shouting that solution to their colleagues.”
At least two Democrats – Sinema and Manchin of West Virginia have so far said they would not do so, meaning the legislation will die in the Senate if they do not change their positions.
Mr. Schumer has set a Monday deadline for action, timing it to the observance of the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Democrats said that deadline was appropriate.