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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“House Democrats have passed HR 1, their signature anti-corruption and voting rights reform bill, for the second time in two years, ” Ella Nilsen reports at Vox. But even though their party now holds the majority in the Senate, the bill has a tough road ahead of it….If Mitch McConnell is not willing to provide 10 Republicans to support this landmark reform, I think Democrats are going to step back and reevaluate the situation,” Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), the author of HR 1, told Vox in a recent interview. “There’s all manner of ways you could redesign the filibuster so [the bill] would have a path forward.”….One path that’s being discussed is partially amending Senate filibuster rules to allow democracy reform legislation like HR 1 to advance on a simple majority vote and therefore potentially be able to pass on a party-line vote. That would be different from fully blowing up the filibuster, but it still could get pushback from Senate institutionalists even in the Democratic Party like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), a staunch advocate of keeping the filibuster in place….Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the chair of the Senate Rules Committee, which will mark up the bill and move it forward, said she wants to bring the bill to the floor and see what the support for it is before she moves on to potential filibuster reform. “We’ll go to the floor; that’s when we see where we are,” Klobuchar told Vox in an interview, saying her committee will look to see, “is there filibuster reform that could be done generally or specifically?”

Nilsen continues, “Democrats are hoping the 2020 election gives them an argument for this bill. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Americans in many states were given more options and flexibility to vote through the mail or with in-person early voting. The results were a record 158.4 million ballots cast; 2020 presidential election turnout was about 7 percentage points higher than in 2016, according to Pew Research Center…..HR 1, among other initiatives, would cement many of those temporary expansions. Nilsen provides a point by point summary of the provisions of H.R. 1, and notes that ” recent polling from the progressive firm Data for Progress showed the bill more broadly is popular across parties and supported by a majority of Democratic, independent, and Republican voters. The poll found that 67 percent of national likely voters supported HR 1, including 56 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents, and 77 percent of Democrats.”

In his article, “Joe Manchin Backed Filibuster Reform a Decade Ago. What Changed?,” in The American Prospect, David Moore ruminates on the West Virginia senator’s position on filibuster reform: “I will not vote to bust the filibuster under any condition, on anything that you can think of,” Manchin told the Washington Post. “If you can’t sit down and work with your colleagues on the other side and find a pathway forward, then you shouldn’t be in the Senate.” It seems fair to ask, what is the incentive for Republicans to negotiate in a bipartisan spirit if the filibuster is kept in its current form? Don’t they need a carrot and stick also? Moore notes that “Manchin voted in January 2011 in favor of several Senate rules changes that had the effect of reducing the filibuster’s power. While the reforms that Manchin supported then did not completely eliminate the ability for senators to filibuster, they are similar to several possible rule changes that could allow Democrats to hold majority votes on bills this year, even without “abolishing” the filibuster.”

Ronald Brownstein’s article, “Democrats’ Only Chance to Stop the GOP Assault on Voting Rights: If the party doesn’t pass new protections, it could lose the House, Senate, and White House within the next four years” in The Atlantic paints a scary picture of American politics if these popular election reforms don’t pass. Brownstein notes that “Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the principal sponsor of H.R. 1’s Senate analogue, has been urging his colleagues to consider ending the filibuster for these bills alone, even if they are unwilling to end it for all legislation. But so far, at least two Democrats remain resistant to curtailing the filibuster in any way: Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.” It appears that their choice is between a blank check for Republicans with no two-party check and balance on the one hand, or fair play for the party that got the most votes in 2020 by a healthy margin on the other. The extraordinary popularity of HR 1 and it’s senate version ought to tip the balance in favor of doing what is good for America, not just what strengthens Trump’s party.

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