Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) say that they’re in support of a voting rights bill called the Freedom to Vote Act, and Sinema (even if not Manchin) has been in support of other legislative efforts to protect voting rights — and yet, neither have expressed substantial willingness to make significant changes to the filibuster rules in the Senate. Under current circumstances, such a change would be apparently necessary to actually enact the legislation. Currently, filibuster rules require the agreement of at least 60 Senators in the 100-member chamber before moving forward on most bills, which means that most successful bills must be at least nominally bipartisan — but Mitch McConnell isn’t exactly a trusted legislative negotiating partner.
In a new article for The Washington Post, MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart shared comments from musician and activist John Legend, who disparaged the de facto obstruction lodged by Sinema and Manchin. The filibuster wouldn’t even have to be entirely dumped from the Senate. Instead, a change to the filibuster rules could be made that would exempt certain bills dealing with rights-related issues like voting rights from the requirements — but even that has yet to get off the ground.
As Legend put it:
‘The bottom line is we keep hitting this same roadblock, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin, folks that keep standing by this relic of Jim Crow, the filibuster, and they don’t believe voting rights are important enough to get rid of the filibuster, or at least change the use of the filibuster… I know Joe Biden wants this voting rights legislation to pass. I know Kamala Harris wants this voting rights legislation to pass. But I don’t know how we get to yes if we can’t get Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to get to yes, and that will involve at least changing the filibuster.’
“The bottom line is we keep hitting this same roadblock, Kyrsten Sinema, Joe Manchin…They don’t believe voting rights are important enough to get rid of the filibuster.” @johnlegend READ👉🏾 https://t.co/BL1fCNTSJ5 pic.twitter.com/7JVcNgFouS
— Jonathan Capehart (@CapehartJ) October 3, 2021
In the short term, Democratic leaders are also dealing with opposition from Sinema and Manchin to a $3.5 trillion spending proposal that has been put forward, which would provide federal financial support to socially oriented causes like child care and care for elders. Because certain budget-related bills can pass the Senate with a simple majority of the chamber’s votes, the filibuster fight holds less sway over the issue. The plan has been developed alongside the bipartisan infrastructure deal that the Senate recently passed but has yet to be passed by the House. Protesters showed up outside a Sinema fundraiser at an Arizona resort over the weekend, calling on the Senator to support the $3.5 trillion legislation.