Today, Senator Kyrsten Sinema commented on her opposition to getting rid of the filibuster at an event with Sen. John Cornyn in Texas, where the Republican state legislature is attempting to pass the most restrictive voter suppression legislation in the country. Her comments follow her absence on the Senate floor during the first filibuster of this Congress that defeated a bill to establish a January 6 commission.
Fix Our Senate Spokesperson Eli Zupnick gave the following response:
"Senator Sinema is simply wrong about the history of the filibuster. Its current abuse by Senator McConnell has turned the Senate into a cesspool of partisanship, gridlock, and dysfunction. The fact that a bipartisan bill to form a bipartisan commission investigating an attack on Congress was blocked by a filibuster is a perfect demonstration of why the filibuster needs to be eliminated to fix the broken Senate. Changing the behavior of the entire Republican caucus – or even just ten members – is a pipe dream. The only way Democrats can pass any meaningful legislation to protect voters and our democracy is to eliminate the filibuster."
Fix Our Senate recently released a report on the filibuster and its history of being used to block critical voting and civil rights legislation. Key points from the report include:
- In addition to anti-lynching bills, legislation to eliminate poll taxes – a form of discrimination that prevented Black and poor white Americans from voting – was also routinely blocked by the filibuster, despite having similar high levels of support from the American public.
- From 2008 to 2016, Leader Mitch McConnell used the filibuster to stonewall the Obama administration’s agenda at an unprecedented rate: Prior to Obama’s tenure, cloture – a common proxy for quantifying filibusters – had been invoked during a congressional session at most 61 times, during President George W. Bush’s final term. But in the eight years of Obama’s presidency, it was invoked 351 times – including 187 invocations during a single Congress, from 2013–2014. McConnell weaponized the filibuster under President Obama unabashedly, and will continue to obstruct necessary progress under the Biden-Harris administration as long as he has the tools to do so.
- Until 1964, civil rights bills were the only category of bills routinely blocked by the filibuster. Southern Democrats – today’s Republican party – regularly wielded the filibuster to stall the effort to turn activism into legislation and increase access to the ballot box.
Senator Sinema’s full comments are as follows:
"It is a tool that protects the democracy of our nation. To those who say that we must make a choice between the filibuster and 'X,' I say, this is a false choice. The reality is that when you have a system that is not working effectively — and I would think that most would agree that the Senate is not a particularly well-oiled machine, right? The way to fix that is to change your behavior, not to eliminate the rules or change the rules, but to change your behavior. The filibuster was not created as a tool to accomplish one thing or another, it was created as a tool to bring together members of different parties to find compromise and coalition."