Press release

Growing Momentum Behind Senate Democrats’ Push to Address Filibuster and Protect Democracy

Fix Our Senate

Eli Zupnick of Fix Our Senate: “Senate Democrats must now choose between protecting our democracy or stubbornly preserving an outdated and abused Senate rule.”

WASHINGTON, DC — Momentum is building for Senate Democrats’ push to deliver on voting rights and democracy legislation in January, acknowledging that the only way to pass these bills is by finally addressing and reforming the filibuster. Among the key voices and developments from recent days:

  • Jordain Carney reports in The Hill on the Fix Our Senate letter from 60 groups urging Senate Democrats to address the filibuster to pass voting and democracy legislation: “‘Just as we needed to extend the debt limit to avoid economic calamity, we need to pass federal democracy and voting legislation to safeguard our democracy…And just as you had earlier been prepared to recognize that the U.S. economy is more important than the filibuster, we urge you to make a similar assessment when it comes to our democracy and our right to vote.’ … The coalition of progressive groups added in their letter on Monday that while McConnell supported a one-time loophole around the legislative filibuster for raising the debt ceiling, Republicans ‘remain committed to abusing the filibuster to obstruct democracy legislation, such as electoral college reforms, and voting rights legislation, such as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act.’” A second piece by The Hill’s Carney, on Senate Democrats’ renewed voting rights push, highlights Eli Zupnick of Fix Our Senate’s reaction: “Senate Democrats must now choose between protecting our democracy or stubbornly preserving an outdated and abused Senate rule.”
  • Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in his Dear Colleague letter to his Democratic caucus: “We must adapt. The Senate must evolve, like it has many times before … As former Senator Robert Byrd famously said, Senate Rules 'must be changed to reflect changed circumstances,' " he said. "Put more plainly by Senator Byrd, 'Congress is not obliged to be bound by the dead hand of the past."
  • Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) in Siobhan Hughes’ Wall Street Journal coverage: “You can think of January as a moment when two different forces are converging,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley (D., Ore.), who has been a leader in negotiations on both rules changes and voting legislation. “One is the functionality of the Senate and the other is the functionality of our republic.”
  • Senator Angus King (I-ME) in the Portland Press Herald on Republicans’ abuse of the filibuster: “They’re using the filibuster as just pure straight up obstruction rather than using it to advance the participation of the minority."
  • The Associated Press reports on President Biden responding to the growing pressure to take action on voting rights: “I’ve never seen anything like the unrelenting assault on the right to vote. Never,” Biden said, adding, “This new sinister combination of voter suppression and election subversion, it’s un-American, it’s undemocratic, and sadly, it is unprecedented since Reconstruction.”
  • The Washington Post editorial board, “U.S. democracy frayed over the past year. Senate Democrats must repair the damage.”: “Voting is not an issue like health-care policy or tax rates, on which there is reasonable debate. No senator should cheer any move to weaken minority rights in the chamber, but these specific circumstances should compel even the most traditionalist of senators to contemplate change. President Biden says he supports suspending the filibuster rules to get it done. Neither voting bill that Democrats seek to pass should be controversial…Mr. Schumer should push hard to advance both voting bills. And if Republicans continue to fight them, Senate Democrats should look at reforming the filibuster.”
  • The New York Times editorial board: “[T]he Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists …Democrats aren’t helpless, either. They hold unified power in Washington, for the last time in what may be a long time. Yet they have so far failed to confront the urgency of this moment — unwilling or unable to take action to protect elections from subversion and sabotage. Blame Senator Joe Manchin or Senator Kyrsten Sinema, but the only thing that matters in the end is whether you get it done. For that reason, Mr. Biden and other leading Democrats should make use of what remaining power they have to end the filibuster for voting rights legislation, even if nothing else.”
  • Hayes Brown column in MSNBC, “Harry Reid nearly killed the filibuster. Democrats need to finish the job”: “It’s not at all a problem that Reid changed the rules. The problem is he didn’t go far enough…The filibuster remains a comforting tool for those who are too scared to take difficult votes. But by 2019, Reid himself had concluded that he had not gone far enough in changing the filibuster’s rules, calling for it to be abolished entirely while ruefully listing the number of policies he’d allowed to stall instead…Reid made the right call when he decided that challenging Republican obstruction was more important than tradition. It was “a fierce sense of economic fairness and a belief in fighting for the Democratic agenda wherever possible,” as HuffPost wrote, that endeared the Nevadan to progressives that worked for him over the years. With his death, it’s a commitment that Democrats need to take to heart in the coming months. The alternative to reform is to potentially let President Joe Biden’s agenda wither on the vine — and American democracy along with it.”