Speaking with CNN’s Manu Raju on Capitol Hill this week, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) laid out some of the stark problems underlying the perpetuation of the filibuster, which — besides other issues — recently allowed Republicans to block a bill that would have created an independent commission to investigate the January riot at the Capitol.
In the Senate, filibuster rules demand the agreement of 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber before moving forward, including to a final vote, on most legislation, which generally allows members of the minority — led at present by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — to stop progress. Forcing a level of bipartisan agreement before getting ahead on legislation isn’t exactly productive when one of the major political parties allows space for and promotes brazenly anti-democratic lies about the integrity of the U.S. electoral system.
Besides the proposed independent investigative commission, another key area of work that has been impeded by the filibuster is voting rights. Democrats have proposed voting rights protections including the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but without an assurance of support from the 10 Republicans who would be necessary to hit the required 60-Senator mark, it’s difficult to envision success. Warnock pointedly commented as follows:
‘I think it’s important for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see the irony in insisting that we have to defend minority rights in the Senate while refusing to stand up for minority rights in the society. Right now, we’re seeing a wholesale unabashed, unembarrassed assault on people’s Constitutional right to vote. And we have to push back against that. And I think if we don’t, history will judge us harshly for it.’
Check out his comments below:
.@SenatorWarnock: "I think it's important for my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see the irony in insisting that we have to defend minority rights in the Senate while refusing to stand up for minority rights in society." pic.twitter.com/ows59s106K
— The Hill (@thehill) June 10, 2021
Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Krysten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have been among the most vocal defenders of the filibuster from the Democratic side, claiming that protecting bipartisan cooperation is imperatively important, but they’re not alone. There is not a unified push from Senate Democrats other than Manchin and Sinema to eliminate the filibuster as it stands. With the filibuster rules in place, the Senate has been able to confirm important Biden nominees, and they’ve also passed a major COVID-19 economic relief package that was exempt from the 60-vote requirement — but beyond that, progress could be stifled.