Politics

Why Mitch McConnell agreed to his filibuster calls for

Minority leader Mitch McConnell is no longer holding back the Senate organizing resolution – after two Democrats confirmed they won't blow up the legislative filibuster anytime soon.

For the past few weeks, Senate Majority Leaders Chuck Schumer and McConnell have worked to negotiate the Senate 50-50 organizational resolution that governs committee membership and resource allocation. The heads of state and government had previously been at an impasse with McConnell urging the Democrats to keep the legislative filibuster intact as part of the resolution, which Schumer did not want as it would reduce the party's leverage in negotiating future laws.

Since the organizational resolution could be filibustered – and it would take 60 votes to pass – McConnell's opposition effectively allowed him to prevent the measure from proceeding.

And although he hadn't received the changes to the organizational resolution he wanted, McConnell's approach still worked in a way: In the midst of the impasse over the agreement, two Senate Democrats – Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) – publicly affirmed that they wouldn't vote to get rid of the filibuster. Without their support, Democrats simply don't have the numbers to make a rule change: all 50 members of the caucus would have to stand behind a filibuster change for this to happen. (It is worth noting that this position is in line with the positions previously expressed by both lawmakers.)

Based on what Sinema and Manchin said, McConnell now says he is satisfied and ready to move ahead with organizational action after causing some annoying delays. Without this resolution, the Democrats could not officially assume the positions of committee chairmen and new members have yet to sit on committees. Republicans also retained the ability to oversee the consideration of candidates and other political priorities.

"Today two Democratic senators publicly confirmed that they will not vote to end the legislative filibuster," McConnell said in a statement Monday evening. "With these assurances, I look forward to advancing a power-sharing agreement along these lines."

McConnell's testimony came as Democratic pressure increased to ease – and when his refusal to compromise began to threaten Senate business. "We're glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and abandoned his ridiculous demand. We look forward to organizing the Senate under democratic control and doing great, brave things for the American people," said Justin Goodman, a Schumer- Speaker.

McConnell secured a pledge from some Democrats, but this may change

While McConnell doesn't get a promise from Schumer to get the legislative filibuster, he actually got one from Manchin and Sinema – whose votes would be crucial in approving a rule change.

Both lawmakers have made strong statements expressing their opposition to blowing up the filibuster in legislation that requires most bills to meet a 60-vote threshold to pass.

"She is not ready to change her mind about eliminating the filibuster," a Sinema spokesman told the Washington Post on Monday. Some people reiterated this attitude in an interview with Politico: "If I wasn't very clear, Sen. McConnell may not have understood, I basically want to say it for you." That I won't vote in this congress, that's two years, right? "

Armed with these assurances, McConnell signaled that he would move the organizational resolution forward without any problems, as his focus was on keeping the filibuster close to preserve the minority's ability to block laws they disagree with. The positions of the legislature on the filibuster could of course still change despite the declarations they have made.

Ultimately, it will likely be difficult to keep the filibuster to pass sweeping laws, as Democrats would need every member of their caucus plus 10 Republicans to do so. Because of this, many of the more progressive members of the caucus, such as Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA), have called for the filibuster to be abolished. And some other Democrats, including those who were reluctant to change the rules, have also recognized this difficulty.

A statement made by Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) to the New York Times sums up how some Democrats, currently unwilling to end the filibuster, are pondering the issue. You may be in favor of keeping it up now, but are open to more drastic action if McConnell continues to obstruct Biden's agenda. "If all that happens is filibuster after filibuster, roadblock after roadblock, then my mind may change," said Tester, who is currently in favor of keeping the filibuster.

Manchin and Sinema have said they don't expect their positions to shift. However, it remains to be seen whether they will maintain this stance in the face of persistent Republican opposition.

Support Vox explanatory journalism

At Vox, we want to answer your most important questions every day and provide you and our audiences around the world with information that empowers you through understanding. Vox's work reaches more people than ever before, but our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism is consuming resources. Your financial contribution is not a donation, but it does allow our staff to continue offering free articles, videos and podcasts to everyone who needs them. Please consider contributing to Vox today, starting at $ 3.

Related Articles